February 10, 2017

World Water Day

Keilani Lai-Hipp, Business Development Fellow

Water is the thread that connects our daily lives. Basic and fundamental for life, water irrigates our crops, produces our electricity, extracts our fuel and increasingly headlines our news. From the Flint water crisis to the extreme drought in the West, water is capturing attention across the nation. Public awareness of water quality, infrastructure and use is catalyzing a national conversation about water issues.

In conjunction with United Nations World Water Day, the administration will hold a White House Water Summit today, March 22, 2016. Leading up to this event, the White House announced a new public-private innovation strategy to address some of the nation’s most pressing water issues. Focusing on water sustainability and security, the strategy emphasizes increased use of water-efficient and –reuse technologies as well as investment in research and development (R&D) to reduce the energy, emissions and economic costs of water.

The administration also released a report describing the strategy in detail and hosted several roundtable discussions on water innovation and technology. Michael Murphy, Director of Water Innovation at MassCEC, attended one of these events in February.

“This was an important gathering of water industry experts aimed at advising the Administration on National Water Policy. While water is inherently local, there are challenges that transcend City, State and region that cutting-edge technology along with innovations in policy, regulation and business planning can address,” said Murphy. “Massachusetts holds as much of the brainpower, innovative spirt and technological capability as any other region and we are excited to participate in setting a strategy for water policy in the United States.”

With a water tech industry value estimated at $1.7 billion water tech industry, Massachusetts plays a key role in creating viable real solutions to water-related issues, especially within the energy-water nexus. The Massachusetts water tech cluster is supported by a network of both private and public entities. World class institutions such as UMass Amherst, MIT and Worcester Polytechnic Institute produce cutting edge research and skilled talent, while accelerators such as Cleantech Open Northeast and MassChallenge encourage more water tech startups to participate in their competitive programs. Massachusetts is also home to the New England Water Innovation Network (NEWIN), a water technology industry cluster bringing together companies, service providers and universities to advance innovation in the water tech space throughout New England.

The White House’s strategy is just the first part of facing our nation’s water challenges. The next step is to balance these incentives with policy changes.  With this strategy’s focus on innovation and R&D, Massachusetts will be able to leverage its prominent network in the water tech industry to help influence future federal water policy.

Water has undeniably captured the interest of the American people, as water security and quality issues are grabbing attention both in the news media and on Capitol Hill. As a nation, one thing is certain: water is no longer something we can ignore.