WEF Joins National Effort to Avert Pending Water Crisis

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) joined a diverse coalition of businesses, farmers, environmental not-for-profits and government agencies Sept. 15 in issuing a landmark call to action aimed at heading off a national crisis in water quality and supply that could affect the nation’s economy, the livability of our communities and the health of our ecosystems.

“Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges,” is the culmination of an intensive two-year collaboration exploring solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges. It was presented to the Obama Administration at a meeting of federal agencies convened by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and released to the public during a noon forum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

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The document is believed to be the first such comprehensive, cross-sector examination of U.S. freshwater challenges and solutions. It represents consensus recommendations of diverse interests convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, Wis.

“Freshwater is our most precious resource and the lifeblood of our economy – industry, agriculture and energy generation all depend heavily on adequate supplies of freshwater. Water quality in our natural and municipal freshwater systems is vital to the health and livability of our communities,” said Helen Johnson-Leipold, chairman of The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. “The Foundation and its many partners in this collaboration offer the Call to Action as a means of bringing overdue attention to our nation’s freshwater challenges and sparking action to address them.”

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The report identifies serious challenges to the quality and supply of freshwater, such as pollution and scarcity; competing urban, rural and ecosystem water needs; climate change; environmental and public health impacts; and a variety of economic implications. It offers actions to confront these threats and a plan to ensure that our freshwater resources are secure for the 21st century.

“With aging infrastructure, growing populations and climate change, water will become the defining societal and environmental challenge of the twenty-first century,” said WEF President Paul Freedman. “We need to rethink our twentieth century approaches to find sustainable solutions. The Freshwater Call to Action not only identifies key challenges but presents important recommendations that will move us towards these solutions.”

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Among these recommendations is a range of management strategies across sectors, such as the streamlining and better coordination of fragmented governance among federal, state and local jurisdictions. Another key need identified in the report is modernizing our freshwater regulatory framework, developed in the 1970s to deal with the acute environmental issues of that era.

“For decades, U.S. water strategy has been cobbled together from diverse, incomplete, and sometimes conflicting policies. We can no longer afford to manage our water that way. The good news is that smart, effective, and innovative solutions to the nation’s water problems exist and can be implemented. That’s what this report recommends,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, one of the nation’s leading water scientists and a co-signer of the report.

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In addition to signing onto the Call to Action, the parties in this groundbreaking initiative also made commitments as individual organizations to take actions to address freshwater challenges.

For additional information about the Call to Action, or to learn more about The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, please visit www.johnsonfdn.org.

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About WEF

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Formed in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with 36,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF and its Member Associations proudly work to achieve our mission of preserving and enhancing the global water environment.

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