A new report from the Risky Business Project, founded by economic powerhouses Henry Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer takes a clear-eyed look at the at the economic risks of climate change and, more importantly, the economic opportunities of shifting to a clean energy economy. They conclude that there are both short- and long-term economic opportunities for investors that also reduce the risk of negative climate change impacts.
Their research-driven bottom line: a clean energy economy is both desirable and possible.
In some ways, we are facing the same risks and opportunities when it comes to providing clean and plentiful water supplies. We can continue to look solely at the costs of best practices for managing water, in agriculture or in urban water infrastructure. Or we can look at those costs as risk management investments that also reduce the drag on our economy resulting from wasted water, polluted drinking water (e.g. Toledo, Flint), and unsightly lakes and streams that reduce property values and tourism revenue.
In urbanized areas, USEPA estimates that we lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually in treated water that leaks out of damaged water mains. In both urban and rural areas, avoidable water contaminants like nutrients, lead, and toxins produced by blue-green algae are either adding costs to treatment, or damaging human and animal health.
Proactive clean water investments can and do fund local:
- Family-sustaining jobs for engineers
- Public health professionals
- Entrepreneurs of all stripes
Innovations that prevent problems arguably provide more value than jobs created to clean up damage caused by short-sighted thinking and poor planning.
One of the hallmarks of American leadership in the world is our can-do attitude.
We can maintain a strong economic position in the world and provide the cleanest, most sustainable water supplies. In fact, I would argue that these two goals are mutually dependent.
So, as we leave 2016 behind and think ahead to a new year and an approaching new decade, I ask you to reflect. Can we create a clean water economy? I say YES.
Are you up for the challenge?
Rebecca Power, Network Director