Supporting the Global Water Industry

Featured in the February issue of our magazine

A Q&A Perspective with Matt Howard

What is The Water Council and why was it formed?

The Water Council is a non-profit organization that drives economic, technology and talent development to support the global water industry. As a leading U.S. cluster, and one of the most established water technology hubs in the world, our organization convenes global water leaders and supports more than 215 members that offer valuable water-related services, programming and expertise.

What are the most critical water issues facing the globe?

The most critical global water issue is the imbalance between supply and demand based on population trends and the over-allocation of certain freshwater resources. In fact, by 2030 global demand for water is expected to exceed supply by up to 40 percent.

In the U.S., we face all types of water issues, from supply and demand imbalance in the western U.S., to water quality issues in the Great Lakes, and crumbling water and sewerage infrastructure across the nation. Add to these issues regulatory uncertainty at the federal and state level, and we have conditions ripe for water crises of every stripe.

What is The Water Council doing to address them?

The Water Council deploys programs along two broad spectrums of action: water stewardship best practices and water technology acceleration. In 2015, The Water Council formed a partnership with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), a global membership collaboration comprising businesses, NGOs and the public sector.

AWS developed the International Water Stewardship Standard, a framework for industrial, agricultural and commercial water users to identify and mitigate water-related challenges and risks through the use of a comprehensive management system that strives toward continuous improvement and best practices.

Many of the most active AWS members and standard implementers are from the food and beverage sector, including Nestle USA, General Mills, Mars, Inc. and Coca-Cola.

On the technology side, once water users achieve best practices in stewardship, they are ready to complement them with appropriate water technologies. The Water Council’s BREW Accelerator, BREW Corporate Accelerator and new Tech Challenge competition are designed to identify and fast track technologies that can solve freshwater challenges.

How does agriculture's water use fit into the total water picture?

Globally, 70 percent of water withdrawals go to ag uses. In the U.S., it is nearly 40 percent. Where ag water use is significant, nonpoint source pollution in surface and groundwater systems is a severe threat to public and private wells and treatment systems.

Overlay the key ag-producing regions of the country on a map where water stress is highest and the two areas largely align. Water use should not be zero-sum: the water stewardship approach implies sustainable water resources for business and communities.

What can progressive ag thought leaders and farmers do to help address challenges and opportunities with water?

Contact The Water Council to learn more about our water technology programs. Even if we do not have the exact match for your needs, we can help identify next steps water users can take on their own and collaboratively to address challenges and risks.

What do you anticipate will need to be the future focus in both rural and urban areas to make sure water is managed appropriately?

First, federal, state and local water-related policy needs to be fact-based. Second, due to the complex nature of water-related risks, all stakeholders need to be at the table. Third, addressing America’s water challenges will not be cheap. Thus, collaborative approaches will be critical to resolving our water challenges.

Matt Howard is director of alliance for Water Stewardship North America and vice president of water stewardship at The Water Council. He currently serves on the EPA’s National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology.