Conservation Finance & Impact Investing for U.S. Water: A Report from the 2016 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum

November 9, 2016  • Lauren Patterson, Martin Doyle & Nicole Buckley

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THE ASPEN-NICHOLAS WATER FORUM is an annual, collaborative initiative between the Aspen Institute and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, gathering ~50 thought leaders to discuss domestic water challenges in the 21st century. The participants are leaders from industry, finance, government and academia, including representatives from water utilities, agriculture, food and technology companies, investors and entrepreneurs.

This report summarizes the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum discussions of May 2016, offering various approaches to financing water infrastructure.


    1. Business as usual is not sustainable—we as a society are now paying for the “can-kicking” that has occurred while we debated responsibility for U.S. water resources.


    1. The water issues we face as a nation continue to grow as the water community dithers and invests in one-off projects, rather than focusing on scaled solutions like regionalization and integration. 


    1. Money is not the issue; there is plenty of private capital available to meet the current water funding gap, but there are significant barriers to impactful and innovative financing. 


    1. Government regulation and public education can go hand in hand to gain public support for improved water management while supporting social equity.


  1. Leadership is one of the prime movers for innovative finance projects in the water space.