Innovating for a Sustainable and Resilient Water Future: A Report from the 2014 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum

December 10, 2014  • Martin Doyle, Water Policy Program Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University; Courtney Harrison, Policy Associate, Nicholas Institu

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To address the urgent need for infrastructure upgrades and resilience building in US water systems as well as the need for leadership and synergistic action in the space, the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum brought together water experts with diverse knowledge – from finance and policy to technology and ecosystems – to explore the future of our water system; the role of corporations and municipalities in managing water risk; and the innovations in, and convergence of, water policy, finance, and technology to identify potential game changers.

This report from the 2014 Forum captures ideas and sentiments expressed by the group and concludes with five priorities that the US water sector should focus on in the near-term.

Key Findings:

1.) disseminate innovations developed by leading utilities to smaller utilities;

2.) strengthen water sector leadership and innovation for climate change resilience;

3.) generate awareness about the value of water;

4.) facilitate data integration to improve water management; and

5.) address 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.