The future of sustainable and resilient US freshwater resources


September 2014

Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources

Executive Summary (pdf)

After more than six years of intensive, solution-oriented work on U.S. freshwater issues, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is concluding its Charting New Waters initiative. Through convening hundreds of experts representing different sectors and perspectives, we have amplified important ideas and innovations that can make a difference. This executive summary (PDF) of our final report synthesizes insights from the full arc of Charting New Waters and is meant to provide a platform for our many partners and other leaders as they continue to address water resource and infrastructure challenges. Without significant changes, existing water systems will soon no longer be able to provide the services that citizens have come to expect. Recent water crises have illustrated that the economic and social consequences of inaction are far too great for this nation and its communities. It is time to accelerate the adoption and implementation of the transformative solutions we know are possible.

Our full report leads with a vision that illustrates what The Johnson Foundation believes is both possible and necessary to achieve if our nation is to successfully navigate our water challenges. It then presents a set of principles, summarized below, to help guide the efforts of leaders in various sectors as they act upon the recommendations we offer.  The recommendations themselves, which are also summarized in brief below, fall under the following five key ideas:

1. Optimize the use of available water supplies

2. Transition to next-generation wastewater systems

3. Integrate the management of water, energy and food production

4. Institutionalize the value of water

5. Create integrated utilities


Guiding Principles for the Future of U.S. Freshwater Resources

• Forge partnerships and collaborate to solve problems

• Develop integrated solutions

• Incentivize and promote innovation

• Highlight multiple benefits

• Recognize the value of water

• Plan for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change impacts

• Balance human and environmental needs

• Design infrastructure to restore ecosystem function

• Prioritize local water sources

• Redefine “waste” as valuable resources

• Right-size water systems and services

• Tap into sustainable financing streams

• Ensure accountability

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