The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation has announced the release of a report aimed at advancing sustainable water management at a scale never before attempted in the field.
Produced by the Water Funder Initiative — a collaborative supported and guided by the Mitchell, S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Energy, Hewlett, Packard, Pisces, Rockefeller, Walton Family, and Water foundations — the report, Toward Water Sustainability: A Blueprint for Philanthropy (40 pages, PDF), offers a call to action for collaborative and expanded philanthropic action aimed at making water systems more balanced, resilient, and sustainable. To that end, the document describes the need and opportunities presented by water issues and describes the six priority strategies that emerged from WFI's consultation with experts and stakeholders. In addition to outlining roles for funders and providing examples of near-term opportunities, the report summarizes a set of funding action plans that detail how philanthropy can address high-priority problems in the field.
While water is essential to life on the planet, water challenges are mounting as climate change, population growth, and other drivers of water stress increase. The public and private underinvestment in water solutions exacerbates those challenges and has led to more conflict and costly litigation as drought and other extreme weather events have caused billions of dollars in damage. Precipitous declines in many freshwater supplies — both above and below ground — simply cannot be sustained, the report argues, nor can the country continue operating with water infrastructure that is deteriorating or outdated policies that further jeopardize human communities and freshwater ecosystems.
To realize WFI's goal for a sustainable water future, the report calls for bringing water supply and demand into balance by discouraging water use above what can be supported over the long term and by strengthening the resilience of water systems to cope with the likely extremes of the twenty-first century climate. To that end, WFI and its network of advisors have identified a number of areas where targeted and strategic philanthropic investment can advance sustainability, including shaping healthy water markets; developing new funding sources; improving water governance; driving decisions with data; strengthening communications and building political will; and accelerating innovation.