Today, more than two million Americans live without access to running water and indoor plumbing. Millions more live in fear of infrastructure failure from severe climate events, or lack of water due to drought. It’s no secret that the U.S. faces significant water infrastructure challenges and that unprecedented investment is needed, particularly with climate change putting systems under added stress.
Rethinking Water 2023, hosted by Sciens Water, was designed to ignite conversations between finance, academia, government, and industry to find solutions to these and other pressing water challenges in the U.S. Now in its second year as an in-person conference, the event featured a mix of panel discussions and breakout sessions.
Radhika Fox, Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water opened the morning by saying the growing awareness of these water challenges among the public makes her feel hopeful about the country’s ability to make progress.
“This is water’s moment…Looking at the tens of thousands of people who are here in New York for Climate Week and the UN General Assembly…comparing it to just a few years ago, we see that water is a thread in a way that it hasn’t been before. It’s part of the discussion,” she said.
Ms. Fox also announced the EPA’s Advancing Water Equity and Access for All Commitment to invest $500 million, including funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, for technical assistance to help 1,500 disadvantaged communities invest in water infrastructure.
Her optimism was echoed by keynote speaker Peter Glieck, author of a new book, The Three Ages of Water, who argued that humanity already has the solutions to its water problems.
“The solutions need to be developed, funded, and scaled – and I’m not saying it’s not going to be easy, but we can choose the future where we solve these challenges. We can choose to solve our water problems,” said Glieck.
The conference’s panel sessions focused on a variety of topics including improving collaboration between the public, private and philanthropic sectors to fund water infrastructure updates, accelerating the adoption and implementation of smart water technologies, and the case for building a national wastewater treatment and water re-use platform in the U.S.
Amane Partner Bill Malarkey moderated a panel focused on advancing the adoption of water reuse technologies, with participants offering up advice on best practices and overcoming barriers to growth.
Aaron Tartakovsky, Co-founder and CEO of Epic Cleantec, which designs and operates on-site wastewater recycling systems, referenced its work in San Francisco, which recently became the first city in the nation to require newly constructed large buildings to collect and reuse non-potable water.
“I had to question, in the midst of going from one drought to the next, why are we shipping fresh water from national parks to flush the toilets of tech employees in downtown San Francisco? The ‘flush and forget’ mentality isn’t sustainable, and we view non-potable water reuse as being where solar was 15 years ago.”
The conference also held breakout workshop sessions focused on PFAS, advancing the visibility and impact of women in water, and how the media covers water-related topics. A career fair was also held for students seeking to get their foot in the industry.
Amane Advisors was a sponsor of Rethinking Water 2023.