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The National Conversation on Integrated Water Information for the 21st Century Brings Together Leaders to Address Water Challenges Through Data

Ambassador Harriet Babbitt of the U.S. Water Partnership’s National Executive Committee

In the U.S. and around the world, communities are facing the challenges of a changing climate and increasing frequency of extreme weather events. America’s water resources are at risk and we must be proactive about sustainable water management today to ensure our water needs can be met in the future. Utilizing state-of-the-art water information and technologies will be key to ensuring we have a comprehensive understanding of hydrologic variability and risks.

2015 was the warmest year on record and saw 10 weather, water, and climate disaster events, including flooding, coastal inundation, and drought, with losses each exceeding $1 billion. Water data and information played a central role in making informed decisions to prepare for and respond accordingly to these events, and will only prove to be more integral to future water security.

The U.S. Water Partnership commends Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) for their leadership in bringing together more than 250 leaders from the federal government, private sector, and research institutions during the recent National Conversation on Integrated Water Information for the 21st Century. This event focused on transforming how decision makers access and use water data and information. The agenda and list of registered participants are available here.

A full report on the event will be developed in the coming months. Common ideas and themes from participant engagement and discussions include:

  • It is important to “meet communities where they are” in understanding risks and in developing water data tools focused on meeting users’ needs and supporting decision makers.
  • New partnerships and collaboration opportunities among the public and private sectors can bridge gaps in capability and catalyze investment to advance water data products and services.
  • Nearly 90 percent of event participants believe there is currently insufficient effort focused on providing and sharing water information to address 21st century water challenges.
  • Building trust among country stakeholders is critical for sustainable transboundary water resources management and begins with sharing data and building capacity through water data tools and analytics.
  • No one entity can address 21st century water challenges alone – we must leverage existing networks and tools to accelerate solutions and increase the scale and collective impact of efforts.

An evening networking event showcased eleven different water tools and models from NOAA, USWP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), The Nature Conservancy, Xylem, Inc, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  NOAA’s National Water Model, which will improve the scale and spatial resolution of our prediction capabilities for extreme weather events and impacts, was featured and is expected to be implemented in August 2016. The USWP highlighted its water data and information sharing platform, H2infO. An initial inventory of U.S.-based water and prediction tools relating to conference themes can be found on H2infO here.

The USWP committed to the following key actions to ensure feedback from key stakeholders:

  • Leverage H2infO as a collaborative platform for easy access to U.S. data and resources;
  • Build on the inventory of the currently available partner analytical tools housed on H2infO; and
  • Facilitate the continued engagement of partners and water community stakeholders through a possible collaborative intranet platform.

Innovations in emerging information technologies, or “actionable analytics,” can give us the opportunity to go beyond the great inventions of Ford and Edison and do more to improve the way we make decisions each day. These everyday decisions, such as local planning, and how to monitor our water supplies, have enormous potential for business of all kinds and people around the world. We are grateful to be a part of this National Conversation that will help keep communities safe, resilient, and prosperous.

We invite you to join us as we move forward on follow-up actions. 

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