White House Celebrates World Water Day – holds first White House Water Summit

by Lana McGee Straub, NWNL Guest Blogger

Leaders from across the United States will gather at the White House Tuesday, March 22, 2016, to commemorate the first ever White House Water Summit. With recent events caused by climate change and aging infrastructure, “water is a critical area of focus,” said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Flooding in the east and drought in the west, as well as the quality crisis in Flint, Michigan has created a growing dialogue on water says Holdren. This is why the White House is hosting the first White House Water Summit. Leaders from across the United States, including tribal leaders, representatives from state and federal agencies, academia, as well as non-governmental organizations will all gather to discuss how they can work together to find innovative solutions to ensure water sustainability. “Water is a shared resource,” says Holdren. “And as such it is a shared responsibility.” These agencies are on the front lines, says Holdren, and the White House has issued a call to action for those agencies to work together to build a sustainable water future.

As part of this call to action, the President has drafted Water Resource Challenges and Opportunities for Water Technology Innovation in December 2015. Yesterday, he tackled the issue of drought and resilience by drafting the Presidential Memorandum: Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience. “Accompanying the memorandum,” says , Alice Hill, Senior Director for Resilience Policy, “is an action plan – that action plan guides the implementation of policy goals…it delineates 27 new activities that departments and agencies will undertake to support drought resilience within existing resources.”

“We’ve issued a call to action across all sectors to come up with solutions for water innovation, specifically to come up with ways to ensure that water is there when and where you need it,” said Ali Zaidi, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science. Water efficiency and innovation has lagged for decades according to Zaidi. “Today we waste 7 billion gallons of water every single day that is clean and treated.” Zaidi said. “We clean it, we treat it and we lose it.”

Lost efficiency is due to aging infrastructure – leaky pipes. Zaidi says we are not investing near enough in research and development of water innovations. “Clean energy R&D gets 50 times more investment than clean water R&D. That just shows how little we’re investing in something that we clearly value and need at the end of the day,” said Zaidi. He’s excited that the budget puts 33 percent more money into water innovation. During the White House Water Summit, they will be showcasing entities outside the government who are making their own commitments to innovation, which includes $4 billion in private capital committed to water infrastructure innovation, which is slated to save over 100 billion gallons of water over the next decade.

The Water Summit will be streamed live from the Whitehouse.gov website beginning at 9 a.m. EDT and can be found at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/white-house-water-summit

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