A city’s ability to effectively manage its primary resources define its ability to thrive. This is especially true of water resources, which are a precondition for every public and private function. It is important, then, to reflect on where city water managers from across the US think their utilities are going, and what the major obstacles are to their improvement. The US Water Alliance’s One Water Leadership Summit brings together leaders in municipal water management to collaborate on these issues. Here are some of the important takeaways from their August meeting in San Francisco:
View the urban water environment as a systemic whole. The concept of “one water” is meant to expose the ways in which the various aspects of water resources and management are connected. We know, for example, that treating water sources as entirely independent and not co-influential causes serious problems. But one water also includes taking a unified view of the urban water environment by treating a city’s drinking water management, wastewater, stormwater, and green spaces as a systemic whole. Such rethinking is crucial given the variety of challenges.
Share the costs for maintaining and improving water management. While some problems are unique to regions—managing a scarce supply is more important in the Southwestern United States, while flooding is more important in the East—many of them are shared. All regions face the prospect of adjusting their systems to the realities of climate change and protecting the quality of natural resources. And while there is wide variability in the way that municipalities charge rate payers for providing drinking water and handling wastewater, the consensus is that rates will have to rise to cover the costs of maintaining and improving efficiency as a component of the estimated $3.6 trillion necessary for infrastructure modernization in the US. Part of the case for this might be made by increasing the visibility of what water utilities actually do for ratepayers, or more to the point where ratepayers would find themselves on alternative systems.
Invest in innovations in the absence of a silver bullet. Many advocate an “all in” strategy of improving conservation, expanding green infrastructure, experimenting with on-site gray water systems, direct potable reuse, and desalination. Some of these are much more complex and expensive than others, however, and picking the right mix, let alone funding it, is a challenge. In the absence of major changes in funding, the cost of experimenting and piloting innovative solutions will have to be borne somehow by private businesses. This poses challenges for distributing these systems widely and equitably, as investment will be driven by profitability rather than need.
Managing increasingly stressed water resources presents a serious challenge. Global cities can begin to meet these challenges and serve as models for other municipalities by insisting on building regulations which treat urban water as a holistic system, and by encouraging a culture enthusiastic for change and prepared to pay for it.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.
Michelle Gavin joins Deep Dish to explain why Ethiopia’s fate will affect the stability of the region and African influence on global affairs.
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria joins Deep Dish to explain why today’s crises are the product of the international system and how the quality, not quantity, of government is part of the solution.
Author Rebecca Lissner joins Deep Dish to argue that while there are domestic challenges ahead, President-Elect Biden has a unique opportunity to reimagine the US approach to foreign policy and focus on openness, rather than dominance.
As the world waits to learn who won the 2020 election, American Enterprise Institute’s Kori Schake joins Council President Ivo Daalder and Deep Dish host Brian Hanson to examine how the results – whenever they arrive – will affect US foreign policy, global relationships, and national security.
Political scientist Claudia Heiss joins Deep Dish to explain what to watch for during the two-year drafting process and examine whether wide-spread change is possible for Chile.
Council polling experts Dina Smeltz and Craig Kafura join Deep Dish to examine how public opinion matches up with the candidates’ perspectives and whether issues like China’s rise, global cooperation, climate change, and trade are driving voter decision making.
Author and former White House Middle East advisor and expert Philip Gordon joins Deep Dish to explain that while regime change is a tempting policy option, in the long-term it leads to high costs, unintended consequences, and the spread of instability.
While there is nothing convenient about 2020, the upcoming Pritzker Forum on Global Cities has been helpfully anticipated by a series of publications that speak to the high stakes currently in play in cities around the world and the urgent need - from the perspective of both efficacy and equity - to adapt governance practices.
Stanford University’s Michael Auslin and Teneo Intelligence’s Tobias Harris join Deep Dish to explain how the 2020 election could influence US foreign policy towards Japan and whether Suga has the power to successfully continue former Prime Minister Abe’s legacy.
The New York Times’ Andrew Kramer and Chatham House’s Laurence Broers Join Deep Dish to examine what the conflict could mean for the region and Russia’s broader competition with Turkey for power.
In honor of world podcast day, September 30, here are five of our recent Deep Dish episodes that explain what’s happening in our world and why these issues are so important.
BP’s Trine Mong and McDonald’s Francesca DeBiase join Deep Dish to explain how their companies are making strides towards sustainability to support the SDGs and revolutionize their industries.
USAID’s Jim Barnhart joins Deep Dish to explain why there’s still hope for eradicating hunger within this generation.
Princeton University’s Laurence Ralph and the Council on Criminal Justice’s Thomas Abt join Deep Dish to explain why police brutality is not a uniquely American phenomenon and argue the strongest examples of successful police reform come from outside the United States.