3p Weekend: Governments, Companies Tackle Water Scarcity

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

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Tuesday, March 22, marked the 24th annual World Water Day. Governments and companies took the opportunity to unveil their latest plans to tackle water quality and scarcity. The U.S. government held a Water Summit at the White House, the U.N. gathered a panel of youth to discuss water and climate issues, and hundreds of government, community and corporate events unfolded across the globe throughout the early part of this week.

Now that the speakers have stepped down from their podiums and the press releases have all been sent out, it’s time to take stock of this year’s public- and private-sector commitments on water issues. Read on for the scoop on our next steps to a water-secure future.

1. Companies pledge $5 billion to improve U.S. drinking water protections …

Water quality issues have tragically come to center stage in U.S. The nation was rocked by the ongoing Flint water crisis. Residents of that Michigan city are still paying some of the highest prices in the country for water contaminated with lead, and the discovery of elevated lead levels at public schools in New Jersey proved that Flint is not an isolated incident. Indeed, America’s aging water infrastructure is lying in wait to spur disaster.

To tackle the problem head-on, at the White House Water Summit more than 150 companies, nonprofit organizations and public agencies committed over $5 billion to improve drinking water accessibility and quality for all Americans over the next decade.

Said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “These unprecedented commitments are a sobering acknowledgment of how urgently our drinking water delivery systems need updating and greater protections against lead and other toxic chemicals. America’s water system was once the envy of the world, but it has fallen into alarming disrepair. Now is the time to fix our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure, which threatens not just water from the taps in every American home and school, but public health overall.”

2. … And $1 billion for water R&D

Also at the White House Water Summit, leading multinationals came together to pledge $1 billion for research and development into new water technologies. This includes $500 million from General Electric, focusing on advanced water, wastewater and reuse technologies, Environmental Leader reports.

3. Cleantech Open creates water-focused business accelerator

Also at the White House Water Summit, Cleantech Open, the company behind the world’s largest clean-tech accelerator, launched a new accelerator focused exclusively on water issues.

CTO-H2O is focused on assisting water-tech entrepreneurs to get their game-changing ideas to market. The six-month accelerator program that supports water-technology startups was recognized by the White House for its innovation in bringing water-efficiency technologies to the international stage.

4. The Climate Bonds Initiative creates new water standard

The Climate Bonds Initiative is an international, investor-focused not-for-profit focused on mobilizing the $100 trillion bond market for climate change solutions.

On Tuesday, in partnership with Ceres, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, CDP and the World Resources Institute, the initiative launched a new Water Climate Bonds Standard with a focus on “vulnerability assessment and climate mitigation and adaptation planning to the fixed income space.” The effort was recognized by the White House at this week’s Water Summit.

5. Ford launches new stewardship program

At the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency workshop in Washington D.C. this week, the world’s first automaker unveiled a new plan to tackle environmental stewardship in its supply chain. The Ford Partnership for A Cleaner Environment, or PACE program, guides the company’s suppliers on its best practices for water, energy and carbon emissions reductions.

“We are committed to expanding our stewardship with our global suppliers to help minimize our environmental impact more broadly,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford group vice president for global purchasing. “By sharing our practices and our processes at the G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency workshop, we hope to foster innovation and collaboration to address sustainability-related issues and advance environmental responsibility.”

Ford began testing PACE in 2014, and has expanded the program to include a total of 25 strategic suppliers representing 800 manufacturing sites in 41 countries. The announcement comes on the heels of two big moves from Ford to start off 2016: At the start of this month, the automaker joined forces with the electronics industry to improve supply chain sustainability, and two weeks later it launched a mobility subsidiary to invest in cutting-edge solutions for automobiles and smart-city technologies.

6. Levi’s open-sources Water<Less technology

Levi Strauss & Co. announced on Tuesday that it will make its innovative Water<Less technology available to the public “in an effort to encourage water conservation and create impactful change across the apparel industry.”

The techniques were introduced by the company’s designers in 2011 and reduce the water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent. Since implementation, the technology has helped Levi’s save more than one billion gallons of water.

7. USDA tackles water use in agriculture

This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched $10 million effort focused on developing and promoting the use of sustainable water practices in U.S. agriculture. The Environmental Law Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law will conduct a legal and policy analysis to get the program going.

8. Greenpeace calls out coal

Greenpeace used World Water Day as an opportunity to call out the coal industry for an environmental impact that’s often overlooked: Coal power plants use enough water to supply the needs of 1 billion people, and this figure will almost double if all the world’s planned power plants come online, the organization said.

Research released by Greenpeace on World Water Day found that 44 percent of current plants, and 45 percent of planned coal power plants, were in areas of water stress. Click here to learn more.

9. Collaborative project takes on groundwater depletion

On Thursday, the Ground Water Protection Council, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of U.S. ground water, announced it will work with member states and other key stakeholders on a multi-year project. The new initiative seeks to address challenges and foster solutions for the “alternative management and beneficial use of produced water.”

It aims to improve water stewardship by “identifying key environmental risks that need to be addressed in order to safely manage produced water in ways other than deep well injection,” the organization said.

10. More companies sign on to protect drought-stricken California

At the White House Water Summit, five new companies — Eileen Fisher, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Annie’s, Kellogg Co. and Xylem, a water technology company — signed on to join Ceres’ Connect the Drops campaign, which highlights smart-water solutions in drought-plaugued California. This brings the tally of member-companies in Connect the Drops to more than two dozen, including existing members like General Mills and Levi Strauss & Co.

The new members pledged to cut water use in their supply chains and “engage with policymakers, employees, customers and peers” to advance water stewardship.

 

Saw a commitment we missed? Leave a note in the comments!

Image credit: Pixabay

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Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and social justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.

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