Charting New Waters
Is the U.S. facing a looming freshwater crisis that could affect the nation's
economy, the livability of our communities and the health of our ecosystems? In 2010 a diverse coalition
of leaders in industry, agriculture, environmental not-for-profits and government unanimously agreed we
are, and in response, issued a landmark call to action to ensure clean, adequate and reliable U.S.
freshwater resources. Their initial collaboration gave birth to an expanding network of organizations
dedicated to catalyzing new solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges.
Today, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is moving into the latest phase of Charting New Waters.
Building upon the rich collaboration and partnership that has characterized the initiative to date, this
next phase of work is focused on catalyzing the widespread adoption of more sustainable and resilient
water infrastructure systems in the United States.
By aiming to help local, state and national leaders set a course for and navigate decisions regarding
the conception, construction, financing, and management of water infrastructure, Charting New Waters’
ultimate goal is to identify elements of a new paradigm for water infrastructure and the steps needed to
transition to it.
| ||Over the course of six years, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread’s Charting New Waters initiative convened more than 600 of experts representing diverse sectors and perspectives for intensive, solution-oriented work on U.S. freshwater issues. The culmination of that work is Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources, a report meant to provide a platform for our many partners and other leaders as they continue to address water resource and infrastructure challenges.
| || On May 20, 2014, leaders from across New Jersey gathered to develop
an agenda for change aimed at catalyzing action to address urban water infrastructure challenges
in the state. Convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, New Jersey Future and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the diverse group found that action must be taken to avoid a water infrastructure crisis in New Jersey’s oldest and largest cities, which have combined sewer systems dating to the 19th century.
| || On March 19-21, 2014, about two dozen experts – leading thinkers and practitioners –representing a mix of utilities, water-sector manufacturers, academics, consultants, advocates and regulators met at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread to determine what type of infrastructure will be up to the task of providing clean water for the future’s cities. Advancements in technology have made distributed or decentralized systems more appealing, but how do we transition today’s structures to meet tomorrow’s needs? This convening was held with partners Water Environment Federation, Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida.
| || On December 11-13, 2013, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, along with partner ReNUWit, convened experts from different parts of the country to discuss the implications of chronic and episodic water scarcity on our nation’s water infrastructure – with the goal of moving beyond the “case-by-case” conversation to one about how cities can transform their infrastructure and management strategies. The resulting report identifies key principles of water security and explores components of good strategy and innovative water supply options while building the case for transformation.
| || In two convenings, Feb. 13–15 and Oct. 28-29, 2013, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, the Water Environment Foundation and Environmental Defense Fund sponsored a series of discussions on nutrient management in municipal water systems. They attempted to answer whether wastewater treatment can achieve more ambitious goals for the clean water it provides, while holding the line on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. This report provides a glimpse into those discussions and preliminary findings before a more robust report by the Foundation’s partners becomes available.
| ||On August 21-22, 2013, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread convened experts from the energy and water utility sectors to discuss how the two sectors can become more resilient and sustainable. The discussion quickly moved to the “utility of the future” and “customer of the future,” focusing on how the traditional silos of electricity, water supply and wastewater can be integrated. The resulting report explores the opportunities discussed during the convening; identifies hurdles to cross-sector collaboration and presents strategies for creating the integrated utilities of the future.
| ||On April 17-19, 2013, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread
brought together participants from a wide range of expertise and perspectives on water, waste,
infrastructure and governance to explore the intersection between urban water infrastructure and climate
change. The resulting report captures key outcomes from the dialog – in particular, how advances in
water infrastructure can help communities address climate change, including promising opportunities to
mitigate it and adapt to its impacts. As we consider the structure, function and purpose of future water
infrastructure systems, it is imperative that we do so within the context of a changing climate and the
impacts that climate shifts, variable and erratic weather conditions and water availability will have on
our communities. This report offers initial insights and recommendations on the transition.
As part of our work with Charting New Waters, we have focused on discovering different approaches to
financing structures that incorporate new perspectives and input. The Financing Sustainable Water
Infrastructure report is the product of a meeting convened by The Johnson Foundation, in
collaboration with American Rivers and Ceres, that brought together a group of experts to discuss ways to
drive funding toward the infrastructure needed for the 21st century. The report has led to testimony
before Congress, amid other important work. Click here to learn more and download the full report.
New England Regional
| ||On May 30 and 31, 2012, 36 participants representing diverse interests
gathered for the Charting New Waters New England Regional Freshwater Forum at the Langham Hotel in
Boston. This Forum brought together water experts and stakeholders from New England and other regions of
the United States to explore the concept of “one water” – that is, planning and managing public drinking
water, groundwater, stormwater and wastewater as an integrated system – as a pathway to holistic,
resilient solutions. While technical solutions for many of New England’s freshwater challenges are
available, existing governance structures and fragmented decision making regarding water are impeding the
development and implementation of innovative, holistic solutions. |
The New England Regional Freshwater Forum was the second Charting New Waters regional forum seeking to
highlight innovative freshwater solutions and share them among leaders in different regions of the United
States and with federal decision makers.
| || On October 18, 2011, nearly 100 participants representing
diverse interests gathered for the Charting New Waters Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum at the Denver
Botanic Gardens. The Forum brought together water experts and stakeholders from Colorado and other
regions to explore Colorado’s experience developing solutions to a selected set of complex freshwater
The discussions centered on how solution-oriented efforts in the state can inform freshwater problem-
solving in Colorado as well as other regions of the United States. The Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum
was the first in a series of Charting New Waters regional forums seeking to highlight innovative
freshwater solutions and share them among community leaders and federal decision makers.
Watch Video The Johnson
Foundation's Lynn Broaddus and other experts discuss critical freshwater issues on Rocky Mountain PBS’
Colorado State of Mind.
Read Environment Program Director Lynn Broaddus’ blog
on issues surrounding the looming freshwater crisis in America.