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White House Launches “Moonshot” Effort on Water, Promoting Recycling and Market Forces

Former Counsel
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by Timothy J. Sabo

The White House has released a new report, “Water Resource Challenges and Opportunities for Water Technology Innovation” (December 2015).  The report describes a strategy of promoting innovation in the water sector, described as a “moonshot” effort.

The report includes a notable emphasis on market forces, especially in the West, stating (page 5) that:

 “The Administration will also work to facilitate market mechanisms that enable water management flexibility and create incentives for investment in water efficiency. In particular, through the new Natural Resource Investment Center at the DOI, the Administration will encourage the development of water exchange and transfer in the western United States. By opening up regional water markets, establishing water banks, and facilitating exchange through Federal water assets, the Department of the Interior will begin laying the foundations for a broader voluntary water market that has, and will continue to drive, additional investment in conservation technologies.”

 Citing a recent EPA report, the new report notes three areas for innovation (pages 7 to 8):

  • New technologies
  • New management approaches, especially regional coordination
  • Increasing efficiency through use of existing technology such as sensors and controls

The report also discusses (pages 10-11) desalination opportunities (both sweater and brackish groundwater) as well as water recycling or reuse, noting that “[b]eyond desalination, water reuse can provide additional benefit, including water conservation opportunities for areas with limited water resources.”

Lastly, the report also notes the need to reduce “soft costs”, such as delays in permitting and environmental reviews, in order to promote such projects.