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The Milwaukee Water Council and The Nature Conservancy announced the launch of the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s North America Regional Initiative. The initiative, which will be based in Milwaukee, is part of the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s global effort to advance freshwater stewardship by helping develop sustainability standards for water use and management.
The Alliance for Water Stewardship was established two years ago by leading business, social development and environmental organizations to build the first global water certification program for businesses, cities and other major water users and managers. The effort is comparable to other voluntary certification systems including standards that encourage energy-efficient buildings (such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program) and sustainable forestry.
Regional programs connected with the Alliance for Water Stewardship already are underway in Europe, Australia and Latin America, and currently are being explored in Asia and Africa.
The decision by the Milwaukee Water Council to host the North America Regional Initiative is expected to accelerate the Milwaukee region’s four-year-old campaign to establish itself as a hub for the freshwater industry, water research and freshwater stewardship. In 2009, the United Nations recognized Milwaukee as a member of the U.N. Global Compact Cities Programme for its global contributions to water quality. In 2009, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee won state support for establishing North America’s first school of freshwater science, which enrolled its first graduate students this fall.
Through the regional initiative, water experts from businesses, cities, universities and nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada will gather in Milwaukee over the next three years to gain and share knowledge in professional meetings, reviews and roundtables. They will work to develop voluntary water certification standards for North America and contribute to the development of a new international water stewardship program.
“Wisconsin has always been defined by water and innovation, and we have worked hard to make the state–and especially Milwaukee – a worldwide fresh water hub,” Governor Jim Doyle said. “Wisconsin has the water resources, the experience, the businesses, the infrastructure, the research and the technologies to continue our global leadership in the water industry. The North American Regional Initiative will build on our state’s leadership by seizing new opportunities for collaboration, research and growth.”
The governor added that the Department of Commerce is providing a $50,000 grant to support the initiative.
Mary Jean Huston, director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin and a member of the board overseeing the Milwaukee Water Council, said determining how to provide water for people now and in the future means protecting our rivers, lakes and aquifers by better managing our water use.
“Efforts to address this global challenge have been undermined by the fact that no common water stewardship standards exist,” Huston said. “The time has come for us to determine how we can best meet our needs today and in the future while also ensuring environmental sustainability.”
In partnership with the Alliance for Water Stewardship and the Milwaukee Water Council, The Nature Conservancy will hire a program coordinator for the North America Regional Initiative in the next few months. That position, which will be based in Milwaukee, will be tasked with bringing stakeholders together to develop voluntary water certification standards and to assist with the development of the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s international water stewardship program.
To support the North America Regional Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and the Water Council will secure $1.2 million in funding. The following companies have pledged contributions: A. O. Smith Corp., Badger Meter, Bucyrus International, Diversy, MillerCoors, and Veolia Water North America. The state of Wisconsin also has agreed to support the effort in its initial year.
“This is another key step in establishing the Milwaukee region as a global leader on water issues,” said Paul Jones, CEO of A. O. Smith Corp. and co-chair of the Milwaukee Water Council.