Editor's Letter: Innovators and integrators celebrated for elevating the value of water

Oscar buzz is in the air as Hollywood's biggest day draws near. Like the film industry, the water industry, too, has its share of award programs for recognizing excellence in the many aspects of water management and treatment. One of those programs - a relative newcomer on the water industry stage - is the U.S. Water Prize.

Mar 12th, 2014
Angela Godwin

As I write this, Oscar buzz is in the air as Hollywood's biggest day draws near. Like the film industry, the water industry, too, has its share of award programs for recognizing excellence in the many aspects of water management and treatment. One of those programs - a relative newcomer on the water industry stage - is the U.S. Water Prize.

Created by the U.S. Water Alliance in 2010, the U.S. Water Prize is somewhat unique among water industry recognition programs. Rather than single out one particular facet of the water sector - like safety, for example - the U.S. Water Prize highlights organizations and initiatives that promote the value of water as a whole.

"Four years ago, the members of the U.S. Water Alliance realized that the best thing we could do to shift the perception of water from being invisible to being invaluable is to have a national program to honor those who are true innovators, integrators and educators on the value of water," said Ben Grumbles, president of the U.S. Water Alliance.

This year, four organizations are being recognized with a U.S. Water Prize for their outstanding achievements.

First (and in no particular order) is the Alliance for Water Efficiency. This Chicago-based non-profit is dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water, serving as an advocate for water efficient products and programs, and providing information and assistance on water conservation efforts.

Next: American Water. For more than thirty years, American Water's Innovation and Environmental Stewardship Team has been conducting cutting edge research, development, and collaboration to lift the water and wastewater sector to new heights, underscoring the value of water and the benefit of technology.

And also in the spotlight this year is the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. This progressive utility is a leader in clean, green, and smart strategies to reduce water pollution, beautify neighborhoods, and drive economic development.

And finally, the Orange County Water District and Sanitation District are being recognized for their Ground Water Replenishment System. Their award-winning effort to reclaim 70 million gallons of water per day is expanding to 100 million gallons per day, all to reduce regional water insecurity and recharge precious supplies.

"We're very proud of these winners for their efforts to reduce water waste, reuse water, and rethink watershed strategies," said Grumbles. "Collectively they embody the water quality and water quantity challenges that communities throughout America face. But individually, each one of them demonstrated to the judges that they were innovating and integrating different aspects of water and economics and social needs, solving problems and working closely with the public to educate everyone about the importance of water sustainability."

Grumbles said that while there are many different award programs in the water sector, the U.S. Water Alliance hopes the U.S Water Prize will become a very well respected, high profile awards program similar to the Stockholm Water Prize. "Our goal is that for at least one evening of the year, important officials, water sector leaders, thought leaders and communities in America can rally behind some real innovators and sustainable water resource managers."

Today, the motion picture industry's celebration of achievement in film is a global affair, dripping with glitz and glamor. But it came from the humblest of beginnings - with just a few hundred people in a hotel banquet hall. Perhaps the U.S. Water Prize will follow a similar path. I can almost see the blue carpet now.

Angela Godwin
Chief Editor, WaterWorld
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