We are at a crossroads in America for water policy. Our supplies of clean, dependable, economical water are more fragile than at any time in our recent history. Long term trends like population growth, economic development, changing weather patterns, new energy supply strategies, growing income inequality, and the needs of endangered ecosystems are threatening to overwhelm both the physical infrastructure and management systems that have previously met our water needs. At the same time, acute crises like Flint, Michigan and trio of deadly storms in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico have captured the public’s attention and provide for a renewed sense of urgency. Politically, we have a renewed focus on infrastructure at the national level, as well as the ripening of the five-year farm bill cycle of agriculture policy. We are also approaching a midterm election cycle already shaping up to be explosive. At the state level, 36 governorships are up for election, many of which are term-limited open seats.
Given the convergence of these long-term trends, short-term crises, and tremendous political opportunities for change, how do we create a new era of water management in America—one that secures economic, environmental, and community well-being?
To answer this question, the US Water Alliance worked with more than 40 partner organizations to host 15 One Water for America Listening Sessions. These discussions, which took place across the country, engaged more than 500 leaders, including water utility managers, public officials, business executives, farmers, environmental and watershed advocates, community organizations, planners, and philanthropic organizations.
These sessions drew upon the expertise of innovative leaders across the country who are on the front lines of driving sustainable, integrated, and inclusive water management practices and policies. Now is the time to spread and scale these successes to benefit more communities across the country. To that end, we have compiled the strongest, most consistent themes from the One Water for America Listening Sessions into seven big ideas for the sustainable management of water in the United States. These big ideas have been organized into seven policy briefs that present workable policy solutions at the local, regional, state, and national levels, and provide real world examples of how these solutions are being implemented and producing positive results.
These policy briefs and their accompanying executive summary form the One Water for America Policy Framework – a call to action to accelerate solutions to the water management problems of our age, through the lens of the One Water approach.
We must take advantage of the current political window to effect meaningful change. We must re-center water at the forefront of national, state, and local policy efforts.