WASHINGTON, D.C. — Along the Reflecting Pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Water Alliance announced the 2013 winners of the coveted U.S. Water Prize: Onondaga County, N.Y., for its program to “Save the Rain” and embrace green infrastructure solutions to wet weather problems; The Freshwater Trust for its collaborative market-based solutions to restore and protect rivers and streams; and, MillerCoors for its strategies to protect and conserve water throughout its life cycle.
“Our 2013 U.S. Water Prize winners are leading the way, from East to West and all points in between, on the value of water and the power of innovating and integrating for one water sustainability,” said Alliance President Ben Grumbles. “Our champions are showing how to save the rain, clean the stream, and grow with care, up and down the supply chain throughout the water cycle.”
The three winners will be honored on Earth Day, Monday, April 22, 2013, in Grosvenor Auditorium at National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. “Our 3 winners reflect America’s spirit of diversity, creativity, and collaboration,” explains Dick Champion, chair of the U.S. Water Alliance. “These are the best in public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. It’s fitting that we honor them at National Geographic, itself known for public education of natural resources. We intend to elevate, celebrate and educate the public about these good stewards for the blue planet’s most precious resource.” More than 300 Water leaders from the federal, state, and municipal level are anticipated to participate in the distinguished ceremony.
The nominations were reviewed by an independent panel of judges including some of the most respected names in the water and environmental sector: Rich Anderson, Senior Advisor for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Water Council; Veronica Blette, Chief of the WaterSense Branch, EPA Office of Wastewater Management; Monica Ellis, CEO of the Global Environment & Technology Foundation; Jody Freeman, Archibald Cox Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and founding director of its Environmental Law and Policy Program; and Jim Ziglar, Senior Counsel at Van Ness Feldman Law Firm and former Assistant Secretary of Interior and Commissioner of the IRS.
The U.S. Water Prize, first launched in 2011, is organized and administered by the U.S. Water Alliance. Through the prize, the national non-profit underscores the value of water and the need for one water integration, innovation, and collaboration among environmental, business, utility, and community leaders. Sharing these goals, several corporate sponsors are joining together including, to-date: CH2M HILL, Veolia North America, ARCADIS, CDM Smith, and MWH-Global.
“CH2M HILL is pleased to sponsor the U.S. Water Prize, which highlights the value water brings to our nation and recognizes the efforts of those who painstakingly work to preserve, protect and enhance our water supplies,” says CH2M HILL Water President Bob Bailey. “We have had the privilege to partner with Onondaga County on their ‘Save the Rain’ program and know firsthand the innovation and leadership the County has demonstrated in becoming a national model for implementing green infrastructure solutions. I congratulate Onondaga County and all the winners on receiving this prestigious award,” adds Bailey.
Description of awardees
Onondaga County, N.Y. — Onondaga County received the U.S. Water Prize for its Save the Rain program, a combined sewer overflow (CSO) abatement/water quality program focused on balancing the use of conventional wastewater/stormwater treatment technologies, with advanced, innovative green infrastructure best management practices.
Rather than advance a costly project ($100 million estimated), County Executive Joanie Mahoney joined with EPA and New York State to petition the federal courts to change course and establish a new, more affordable and sustainable CSO abatement program. As a result, the Save the Rain program was born in November of 2009. Federal Justice Frederick Scullin approved a CSO abatement program that allowed the county to change course and advance a program that balanced the use of wet weather storage as well as a requirement to use green infrastructure. It was the first settlement of its kind in the nation to endorse and require green infrastructure as a stormwater management solution.
The Freshwater Trust — The Freshwater Trust is a non-profit, located in Oregon, but working throughout the United States for the last seven years to advance a program that restores rivers and streams. They have created an innovative framework for water quality trading and the project management tools necessary to implement it. Their model and their approach is succeeding quickly and on a larger scale than seen in the past, while at the same time producing new revenue streams to farmers and ranchers.
The program works by calculating and quantifying the ecosystem services nature provides. It then turns them into credits that can be traded and purchased by wastewater treatment facilities and power plants to achieve regulatory compliance on impaired streams and rivers. Their work is done in partnership with water agencies, irrigators, regulators, and farmers and gets away from traditional, costly “built” solutions such as cooling towers for temperature control, or narrowly focused restoration projects on limited acreage. Their approach permits entities to meet their regulatory compliance requirements while creating verified environmental benefits.”
MillerCoors — Beer begins and ends with water. By conducting a “water blueprint” of their total business operations, MillerCoors discovered that more than 90 percent of water use occurs in the agriculture supply chain. This caused the company to focus significant energy and resources in this sector, and as a result they are leading the way in developing and scaling water-efficient farming practices, as part of a comprehensive water strategy.
To understand risks and identify areas for improvement, MillerCoors teamed up with The Nature Conservancy in Idaho’s Silver Creek Valley, a region where much of the beer industry’s barley is sourced. Together, they launched a precision irrigation project to use less water in barley farming without reducing yields. Through the partnership they also developed a Showcase Barley Farm to help demonstrate water conservation practices as a model for other farmers. The water conservation practices piloted at the Showcase Barley Farm are modernizing best practices on barley farms and have applications across the agriculture industry.
President’s Award — In addition to the three U.S. Water Prize winners, the Alliance is also honoring Aaron Salzberg, Special Coordinator for Water Resources in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science Affairs at the U.S. State Department. The President’s Award recognizes Dr. Salzberg for his public service as a U.S. water diplomat, providing environmental and humanitarian assistance to those in need and advancing global water security, at home and abroad.