June 27, 2017

Sharing Water event in Washington, D.C.

8th World Water Forum Poster. Image credit: Bill Dennison

The Eighth World Water Forum is going to be held in Brazilia, Brazil in March 2018. As a lead up to the World Water Forum, a series of regional events are being held to initiate discussions and create enthusiasm for the World Water Forum. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Coca-Cola Company co-sponsored the Sharing Water event on 5 June 2017 as one of these regional events. This one day event was well planned and orchestrated, with a series of stage setter talks followed by panel discussions. The panel discussions were on water, development & finance, water & people and sharing water. In addition, there were plenary talks by Peter Grevatt, U.S. EPA and Karen Weaver, Mayor of Flint, MI. Amanda Rosseter, former CNN correspondent and now a communications expert for Coca-Cola, conducted interviews of these plenary speakers and also served as emcee of the overall event.

Top: Greg Koch of the Coca-Cola company, leading a toast to Dr. Karin Krchnak from the WWF. Bottom: The forum also emphasized audience engagement. Image credit: Bill Dennison

The highlight of the event for me was the talk by George Hawkins, CEO of DC Water. He provided stories about the challenges of supplying safe drinking water to millions of people using infrastructure dating back to before the Civil War. George also highlighted the technological, communication and engagement innovations being practiced by DC Water. Drinking fountains with Bluetooth-enabled filter status alerts were an example of the state-of-the-art technology being developed by DC Water.

Top: Karin Krchnak providing an overview of the 2018 World Water Forum. Bottom: George Hawkins discussing some of DC Water’s newest innovations.

Another highlight was hearing about the incredible challenges that the Mayor of Flint, MI — Dr. Karen Weaver — shared with us. Flint’s story of lead contamination in a municipal water supply provided a sobering reminder of the consequences of ‘getting it wrong’ with respect to water security. Many of the speakers addressed the global problem of water security, but to experience this water crisis in the United States provided a local example of the importance of water security.

Amanda Rosseter interviewed Dr. Karen Weaver regarding her perspectives on water security. Image credit: Bill Dennison

I was impressed by the high level of informed discussions that occurred and the major organizations that were involved in this event. I was glad that Karin Krchnak, one of our key partners in the ‘Healthy Rivers for All‘ initiative promoted by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and WWF, provided us an opportunity to tout our river health report cards to the audience.

Saying goodbye to Evan Tueller, as she heads off to graduate school. Image credit: Bill Dennison

At the end of the day, I wrote a summary poem, which Karin shared with the audience:

 

Sharing Water
5 June 2017
William C. Dennison

We gathered in Washington DC to share water stories
Talking about water issues in many different categories
Amanda Rosseter of CNN fame served as MC
Expertly giving speakers the third degree
Sheila Bonini talked about private sector engagement
While Bruce Karas talked about passion, innovation and partnership.

Peter Grevatt spoke about water infrastructure that was aging
And then George Hawkins provided a talk that was super engaging
Stories of failures of water mains built before the Civil War
With DC Water to the rescue supporting all, not some, of the jobs
Jennifer Sara talked about the three “I”s
Infrastructure, institution, and information systems–these seem wise.

But George provided an alternative–his three Ps, delivered at a fast clip
Platforms, public to public partnership, and private-public partnership.
Eric Letsinger talked the problem of “wrong pockets” for philanthropy
And told us the story of investing in green infrastructure in Washington DC
Then Kumar told us about Jordan’s water scarcity
And Greg Koch talked about using the term “water services” for more clarity.

Karen Weaver was not elected as Flint’s mayor to speak in angry tones
So she highlighted Flint’s strong and resilient people, the Flintstones
Tim Prewitt told the story of the shrinking Aral Sea due to agriculture in the basins
Carl Ganter provided excellent water story visualizations
Sarina Prabasi highlighted the difficulty of talking about some water topics
Sergio Campos talked about the importance of water economics.

Eileen O’Neill talked about making water issues more visible
James Peters emphasized making engagement and innovation doable
And Karin Krchnak provided the Sharing Water event perspective
It is part of the next World Water Forum in Brazil, which is sure to be festive!

Al Duda un-retired to gather a panel who spoke profoundly
On water security and water issues that are transboundary.
Greg Koch talked about how more patience was priceless
Karin talked about NGOs providing a voice for the voiceless
Aaron Salzburg spoke about institutionalizing cooperation
Steffen Hansen talked about engaging people across the entire basin.

Overall, we have spent the day endorsing water as a connector
Something that links all the people and sectors of society together.

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About the author
Dr Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Applications at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Bill_Dennison/
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