27 Jul 2015
Milwaukee advancing ‘One Water Regions’

Summit brings together leaders around the global water agenda

Milwaukee is continuing its leadership in tackling the tough global issues around water with its recent hosting of the ‘Water Summit 2015’. It is also extending its sphere of influence with hosting new national and international centres and ambitions for greater civil society engagement in its ‘water centric city’ efforts.

Held from June 23-24, the 8th annual summit saw over 400 attendees from the water industry share ideas and gain insights from a list of accomplished keynote speakers.

The summit centred on the theme of ‘Creating a One Water Region’, with the aim of connecting historically independent water entities to create a more streamlined, effective and comprehensive water system that improves water quality.

Keynote speakers included Jay Famiglietti, Senior Water Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory & Professor of Earth System Science, as well as Don Moseley, Senior Manager of Multilevel Facilities & Increasingly Sustainable Facilities at Walmart and Adrian Sym, Executive Director of the Alliance for Water Stewardship International.

This year’s event marked a significant shift from previous years as the summit expanded from an emphasis on achieving sustainable economic, social and environmental development in Milwaukee to a global agenda for water stewardship.

Dean Amhaus, CEO and Executive Director of The Water Council had a specific vision for this year’s event:

“Through the Council’s Water Summit we hope to further the innovative approach of people thinking of themselves as living in “One Water” regions where we remove our water and wastewater utilities, gray and green infrastructure as separate programs or silos and instead embrace our management of water as an integrated watershed.”

Global Compact Cities and Water

Dean has recently taken on a Global Advisor  role  to the Cities Programme, which will strengthen the water expertise available to UN Global Compact cities and their business and civil society partners.

Raising cities’ awareness of water and mobilizing collective strategies is critical. Whilst there has been some progress made globally there is urgent need to strengthen environmental and social systems, particularly to improve access to potable water.

The United Nations recognises access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right.

Following the Millenium Development Goal to ‘halve the proportion of the population without access to safe drinking water’, the UN World Water Development Report 2015 indicated that 2.3 billion people now have access to an improved drinking water source.

However, 748 million people remain without an improved source of drinking water, while an estimated 1.8 billion people drink water contaminated with Escherichia coli, an indicator of faecal contamination. Regional approaches are necessary to counter this enduring global issue.

Water has again featured in the new (soon to be ratified) Sustainable Development Goals, with Goal 6 aiming to “ensure access to water and sanitation for all” but, like cities and urbanisation, also actually relates to a number of the other 17 goals.

Fellow Global Compact Innovating city Leeuwarden is also addressing water issues and sent a delegation of leading global water technology experts to the Water Summit from their city in the Netherlands. Speaking on behalf of the Water Alliance in Leeuwarden, Managing Director Hein Molenkamp spoke of the innovation strategies being employed in Leeuwarden, encouraging other cities to learn from their approach.

Leeuwarden’s efforts around water sustainability are based on facilitating innovation and collaboration between the science, education, business and government sectors in the Netherlands. They are also working to address skill shortages in the water professions. See the WaterCampus Leeuwarden case study.

Milwaukee has been a Global Compact Cities Programme Innovating level city since 2009 focused on improving water quality, management and stewardship as well as sustainable economic development through clustering water technology and services. During this time Milwaukee has developed a global reputation as a World Water Hub.

Milwaukee Freshwater scientist, Jesse Blom is supporting these efforts, recently taking up an internship position with the Cities Programme. Jesse will focus on increasing the participation of local civil society in Milwaukee’s effort to become a ‘Water Centric City’ and is helping to coordinate a multi-sectoral group to advance this.

Jesse brings several years experience in the environment sector to this role which he undertakes with the support of the Centre for Water Policy at the University of Wisconsin.

New roles for the Water Council – ‘Center of Excellence for Water Innovation and Small Business Development’ and host of North America’s Alliance for Water Stewardship

The Water Council has recently established a Center of Excellence (CoE) for Water Innovation and Small Business Development, after being awarded a Regional Innovation Cluster contract by the U.S. Small Business Administration in September 2014.

The Centre of Excellence promotes the growth and development of small businesses operating in the water technology sector – first in the Midwest and then across the United States. This is achieved by connecting small and medium sized water technology businesses to critical resources such as capital and networks necessary to promote and sustain growth.

In further support of regional, collaborative approaches to water management, the Water Council recently become host of the Alliance for Water Stewardship for North America. Former Sustainability Director for the City of Milwaukee, Matt Howard has taken on the position of Director.

This article was written by Cassandra Cohen , who is currently undertaking an internship with the Cities Programme as part of her Professional Communication study at RMIT .

For further information on Milwaukee see – World Water Hub case study and page 67 in the 2015 Cities for the future publication.

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