Water crises are not the outcome of climate change, population growth, new contaminants, or financial constraints but of the convergence of these challenges combined with the realities of undervalued water, policies that preserve the status quo, and under-financed and degraded water systems. To address the urgent need for infrastructure upgrades and resilience building in U.S. water systems as well as the need for leadership and synergistic action in the space, the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum in May 2014 brought together water experts with diverse knowledge—from finance and policy to technology and ecosystems. This report captures ideas and sentiments expressed during the forum. The report concludes with five priorities for near-term action: (1) disseminating innovations developed by leading utilities to smaller utilities, (2) strengthening water sector leadership and innovation for climate change resilience, (3) generating awareness about the value of water, (4) facilitating data integration to improve water management, and (5) addressing federal-state-local tensions in water resource management. All these challenges represent nascent opportunities for increasing water sustainability—but they cannot be addressed by a single sector of the water industry, a single layer of government, or a single type of investor. Synergetic approaches are needed to develop truly novel solutions.
Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions