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Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015


In April 2014, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy issued the Promoting Technology Innovation for Clean and Safe Water, Water Technology Innovation Blueprint—Version 2 (Blueprint Version 2) to demonstrate the extent of risks to water sustainability, the “market opportunities” for innovation, examples of innovation pioneers, and actions to promote technology innovation. These actions included ways that EPA will be a positive contributor to the effort, along with utilities, industry, investors, academics, technology developers, and entrepreneurs.

Over the past year, EPA has collaborated with a wide spectrum of partners, all of whom play a critical role in advancing water technology and innovation. Progress toward sustainable water resources is accelerating. This Progress Report provides additional examples of the growing momentum across the country to address traditional and emerging threats to the nation’s water resources.

The Business Case for Water Innovation and Sustainability Blueprint Version 2 made the business case for innovation in the water sector and provided many examples of how innovation was being deployed across the United States. In the past year, notable authors and experts issued reports that also framed our nation’s water challenges and made the strong case for water technology, innovation, and sustainability. Examples of these critically important works include:

  • “With shocking water crises in the news this year, the urgent need for infrastructure upgrades and resilience building in our water systems has been made clear.” (From: Innovating for a Sustainable and Resilient Water Future, Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, 2014)
  • “[…] the water sector is rapidly shifting from a culture of stasis to one that values and embraces innovation.” (From: Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources, The Johnson Foundation, 2014)
  • “Although they have been highly effective to date, the country’s water supply systems are now on the cusp of new challenges that they are not prepared to meet.” (From: The Path to Water Innovation, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 2014)
  • “The time has come to secure the water future we want before a crisis forces it upon us.” (From: Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource, David Sedlak, 2014)

Recent Innovations in the Water Sector

EPA’s Blueprint Version 2 identified and described 10 of the most promising opportunities to employ technology and institutional innovation to help solve current water resource issues and promote economic growth. Collectively, these “top ten” market opportunities, listed in the key at right, form the basis for achieving water sustainability. Building off the 20 examples provided in Blueprint Version 2, the map below highlights additional innovative technology efforts across the nation and identifies their corresponding market opportunities.

EPA Actions to Support Technology Innovation and Water Sustainability

Blueprint Version 2 provided the framework for EPA and its partners in the water sector to support water sustainability. Examples of progress include:

Advocating Technology Innovation

Technology Innovation Showcase—In December 2014, EPA held the Technology Innovation Showcase, which demonstrated innovative water technologies, including over 20 technologies designed by EPA researchers.

2015 Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP) Policy—EPA recently updated its SEP Policy to include opportunities for defendants to develop and demonstrate innovative technologies that may prove more protective of human health and the environment than existing processes.

Speeding Delivery of Proven Technologies

National Centers for Innovation in Small Drinking Water Systems—With funding support from EPA, the University of Colorado and University of Massachusetts are developing programs to identify and address common potential barriers in how states approve the use of new treatment technologies.

Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) Program—Through funding provided by a cooperative agreement with EPA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) LIFT program, now with over 280 water agency participants, launched several new programs, including a Web platform to help identify and deliver information on innovative water technologies. WEF is also developing a framework for a work group on national stormwater testing and evaluation for products and practices (STEPP).

Partnering and Leveraging Actions with Others

Collaborating for Energy Efficiency—EPA Region 9, in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Centers, conducted 19 energy audits at wastewater treatment facilities. These audits identified 125 energy conservation opportunities that could save approximately $7 million and 70 million kWh annually.

Technology Innovation at WEFTEC 2014—WEF showcased Blueprint Version 2 and led facilitated discussion sessions on each of the market opportunities at its 2014 WEF Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC). WEF is publishing summaries of each of those discussions monthly in its Water Environment & Technology (WE&T) magazine throughout 2015 in a featured series titled “Building Blueprints.”

EPA: Innovations in the Water Sector


Download full version (PDF): Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future

About the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

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