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California's historic woes cloud U.S. Water prize

California's historic woes
cloud U.S. Water prize

by ROB McMANAMY | April 13, 2015

This evening on the other side of the country, as the State of California gasps in its ongoing record drought, two entities from the Golden State will be among those awarded the U.S. Water Prize for "strategies that promote the value of water and the power of innovating and integrating for 'one water' sustainability," according to the nonprofit U.S. Water Alliance (USWA).


“These winners offer approaches that will build resiliency in the face of challenges like the California drought and other climate change impacts,” explained Dick Champion, Chairman of the USWA Board of Directors. Added USWA Interim President Tracy Mehan, “This year’s awardees highlight the commitment and innovation we see throughout America’s water and business sectors.”

Some 300 public and private water industry leaders from across the U.S. were expected to attend the April 13 gala at the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington DC. Now in its fifth year, the annual program's prizes for 2015 belong to: the City of San Diego Public Utilities Dept., CA; Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA; and The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA. The ceremony is sponsored by Denver-based CH2M HILL Corp., Intel Corp., Santa Clara CA, and MWH Global Inc., Broomfield, CO.  

For the individual winners' specific citations, see below.

Meanwhile, in related news, California continues to deal with its worst water shortage this century. This week, public agencies and businesses across the state are still formulating new regulations and practices to conform with Gov. Jerry Brown's unprecedented emergency water use executive order. Issued April 1, it instructed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to cut usage of potable urban water by 25% through Feb. 28, 2016. 

Standing with state water officials on a sprawling dry patch in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Brown in his now trademark rasp, announced: "Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action."

This month, the executive order already has prompted dialogue and hand-wringing at golf courses, hotels, offices, universities, shopping malls, airports, sports venues, you name it. On April 8, in fact, the State Water Board even sent a letter to the California Lodging Industry Association, urging them to encourage member hotels and motels to give multi-night guests "the option of not laundering towels and linens daily," among other other strong suggestions. Stay tuned...

No Foolin' - On April 1, CA Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. (center) announced his executive order from that parched the Sierra Nevadas. Below, an Infographic from the Los Angeles Times partially illustrates how the state's water crisis has worsened since 2011. (Hint: Red is bad.) For an even more complete picture, watch a 6-second snap-shot here.

No Foolin' - On April 1, CA Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. (center) announced his executive order from that parched the Sierra Nevadas. Below, an Infographic from the Los Angeles Times partially illustrates how the state's water crisis has worsened since 2011. (Hint: Red is bad.) For an even more complete picture, watch a 6-second snap-shot here.

But enough disturbing news... Let's get back to the trophies! Here are tonight's winners: 

  • City of San Diego Public Utilities Department’s Water Purification Demonstration Project is recognized as a trailblazer for reservoir augmentation. Halla Razak, Director of the Public Utilities Department explained that, “Pure Water San Diego will provide one-third of the City of San Diego’s water supply upon completion in 2035. Water supply independence is an ever important goal because of the increased pressure on imported water supplies due to recurring droughts, rising population, increasing costs and climate change. The City is committed to controlling more of its own destiny by implementing potable reuse.” The project findings are helping develop standards for potable reuse across the country.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and a collaboration of power companies, farmers, state and federal agencies, and environmental interests have established the world’s only interstate water quality trading project.  “[The] project is an impressive example of how we can work together to realize solutions to our shared challenges,” remarked Bob Perciasepe, former deputy administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and current President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “[It] has overcome challenges that have ended similar efforts, and companies now have an opportunity to receive turnkey verified credits to meet stewardship goals, address compliance needs, support farms, and protect ecosystems.”
  • The Coca-Cola Company has replenished an amount of water equivalent to more than 70% of its total beverage volume in North America, with an ultimate goal of being water neutral. Through collaborative partnerships, water efficiency in manufacturing operations and sharing best practices, the company is a corporate leader in advancing water sustainability. “Water is the main ingredient in our beverages. It’s essential to our business and vitally important to the communities we serve. We strive to be a steward of this precious resource by using it more efficiently and building community water projects – all with the goal of replenishing 100% of the water we use by 2020,” explains Sandy Douglas, President of Coca-Cola North America. 

The U.S. Water Alliance, a 501(c)(3), was established in 2008 to break down the “silos” and provide sector-wide leadership for building a national platform for holistic water policy. The Alliance is committed to uniting people and policy for water sustainability in a changing climate. That means convening, inspiring, and educating to change the way America views, values, and manages water–from quantity to quality, above and below ground. The Alliance emphasizes the importance and value of each aspect of the water cycle and promotes more integrated, sustainable management of water and watersheds (a concept we call “one water” management). The Alliance focuses on changing old paradigms, such as shifting the perception of water from invisible to invaluable, and integrating more green infrastructure into the gray.


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