Businesses pledge billions for water research at White House water summit

23 March 2016

The White House yesterday unveiled corporate commitments to the tune of billions of dollars to water research and development during a high-level summit.

Held on the occasion of the World Water Day, the summit was aimed at calling attention to specific state and corporate pledges as also the new Obama administration initiatives prompted in part by western states' drought and the Flint, Michigan, drinking water scandal.

Among the corporate promises was a commitment by GE to invest $500 million over the next decade on water and reuse technologies, and a pledge by San Francisco-based Ultra Capital to invest $1.5 billion in decentralised ''water management solutions.''

''It's an investment opportunity that has the potential for great returns,'' enthused Ali Zaidi, associate director for natural resources at the White House's  Office of Management and Budget.

The summit held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, lasted around four hours. Administration officials also presented their 20-page drought resilience action plan at the event.

The plan called for better data collection and improved coordination among government agencies. Additional suggestions included specific projects, such as  a new prize for water innovations and initiating a study of ''the broad implications of a prolonged drought in California.''

''We really just aren't prepared for the new normal that we already are experiencing: not enough water in some places and sometimes too much in others," said Alice Hill, special assistant to president Obama and a member of the National Security Council staff.

Pointing to the severe drought that had left decreased water flow in Colorado River, she sid it illustrated the need to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

''We need to do more to conserve the water we have, and we need to invest in that water infrastructure that rests below our feet,'' Hill said. ''We need to find new ways to work together to solve these problems.''

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