Mar 30th 2016 | Posted in Water by Peter Partheymuller

California drought, crisis in Flint prompt public, private sectors to collaborate

Events of the past few years have focused public attention on the nation’s water supplies like nothing before. Widespread drought throughout much of the nation’s western half and the crisis still affecting residents of Flint, Mich., have brought the nation’s water infrastructure to the forefront.

Last week, the White House was home to a summit coinciding with World Water Day. Administration officials were able to announce several state government and corporate pledges of investment, as well as new federal initiatives meant to combat the issues faced by the aging and deteriorating infrastructure.

Photo of a dry creek bed by CraneStation licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Photo of a dry creek bed by CraneStation licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The corporate commitments include a $500 million investment in water and reuse technologies by GE over the next decade and a pledge by a San Francisco-based investment firm to dedicate $1.5 billion toward “decentralized water management solutions.”

“It’s an investment opportunity that has the potential for great returns,” said Ali Zaidi, associate director for natural resources at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
The White House Water Summit also provided administration officials a platform to release a Long-Term Drought Resilience action plan. The plan calls for better data collection and improved coordination among government agencies and includes a contest that offers a reward for innovative projects. It also funds a study of “the broad implications of a prolonged drought in California.”

Much of the White House Water Summit was devoted to technological solutions to the nation’s water problems. Among the commitments that emerged from the day were:

  • Establishment of a new water center at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that will use satellites and airborne observation to aid water planning;
  • The city of Los Angeles will capture an additional 12 billion gallons of stormwater a year by 2025, more than doubling the current amount; and
  • Three universities in Southern California are forming a consortium to work on ocean desalination.
“In California, as we’re struggling with drought and water scarcity, data has enabled us to find solutions,” said Joya Banerjee, an executive with a nonprofit foundation in San Francisco. Banerjee’s organization announced Project Water Data, which she described as an effort to “modernize our data systems.” White House officials unveiled a similar project that will improve researchers’ ability to forecast river flows.
Many government contracting opportunities will open up as a result of the federal governments actions. SPI’s team of researchers can identify them before they’re released publicly.