Today is World Water Day, an annual event started by the United Nations to raise awareness about global water scarcity and water safety. Both issues have affected the US this year as some regions struggle with drought and thousands of people were exposed to unsafe levels of lead following the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
As part of World Water Day the White House is hosting a summit to discuss water saving strategies and technologies, and major businesses are making commitments to improve water management. Here are some highlights:
More than $1 billion from the private sector over the next decade to conduct research and development into new technologies. This includes $500 million from General Electric, focusing on advanced water, wastewater and reuse technologies.
The White House recognized sustainability advocacy organization Ceres’ water initiatives. One of Ceres’ efforts, Connect the Drops, which organizes businesses around the issue in drought-plagues California, added five new members: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Annie’s, Eileen Fisher, Kellogg and Xylem. In joining Connect the Drops, companies agree to 1) make and implement business commitments to support California’s action plan for water conservation, and 2) engage with policymakers, employees, customers and their peers on improving water management and enhancing water efficiency in the state.
Water technology company Xylem will invest at least $300 million in water-focused research and development activities through 2018. In collaboration with the US Water Partnership, Xylem will issue a new national water-innovation challenge with funding of $50,000, focused on growing demand for water, protecting cities from flood and drought, and protecting water resources.
General Mills, an existing Connect the Drop signatory, pledged to champion development of water stewardship plans in the most material, high-risk watersheds in its global supply chains by 2025. As part of this commitment, the company will lead corporate collaboration efforts, foster development of foundational tools, and advocate science-based policy in these watersheds.
Genentech, also a Connect the Drop signatory, announced that it is piloting a project to treat manufacturing process wastewater and distribute it via a purple pipe network for reuse in buildings throughout its South San Francisco campus. The project is expected to save 60 million gallons of water per year by 2020.
Levi Strauss & Co., another Connect the Drop signatory, announced it is making its Water<Less finishing techniques publicly available to spur water conservation across the apparel industry. The techniques reduce water use in garment finishing by up to 96 percent and have helped the company save more than 1 billion liters of water since 2011. Levi’s also announced today the company’s goal to train 100 percent of its corporate employees on water conservation through its ongoing partnership with Project WET, a non-profit that offers water education to help people understand and value water and ensure a sustainable future.