“March Madness” (NCAA basketball’s season-ending extravaganza) will give way to “April Accolades” with the U.S. Water Alliance’s fourth annual ceremony in Washington, D.C. for winners of the U.S. Water Prize. We predict April showers of deserving praise for the prize winners will bring seeds of hope and flowers of sustainability for water’s future. The prize recognizes the outstanding achievements and contributions to the industry.

By: Ben Grumbles, U.S. Water Alliance

The U.S. Water Prize honors individuals, institutions, and organizations that have made an outstanding achievement in the advancement of sustainable solutions to our nation’s water quality and quantity challenges and that have successfully demonstrated a commitment to the following:

Innovation

Technologies, management practices, regulatory strategies and/or financing strategies that are changing the water paradigm.

Integration

Collaboration to manage water as one resource. Progress in moving towards a watershed-based, holistic approach, with integration among key water stakeholders and agencies to achieve improved results.

Education

Formal or informal education programs or initiatives that are working to inform and inspire – providing motivation and insight to help people view, value, and manage water more holistically and sustainably.

The 2014 U.S. Water Prize winners, announced on January 23, in drought-stricken California, offer solutions for water-stressed and economically challenged communities throughout America and the World. The four winners are: Alliance for Water Efficiency, Chicago, IL; American Water, Voorhees, NJ; Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, OH; and Orange County Water District and Sanitation District, California.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to promoting the efficient and sustainable use of water in North America.  Before AWE, no organization existed nationally to do for water efficiency what has been done for decades for energy efficiency.  Since opening in 2007, AWE has served as the leading voice for water efficiency and has carved a new path for this fundamental component of water sustainability, yielding significant results in just a few years.  AWE has accomplished a remarkable amount in its first six years and is a leading force for education and advocacy, instilling an ethic of “every drop counts” and proving that a “save more, waste less” strategy applies not just to water but to energy and money as well.  As testament to its success, more than 390 organizations have joined AWE’s network, and membership is growing.

American Water has spent 125+ years learning and growing in the water and wastewater industry.  Its dedication to research has ensured that it has the best information to make prudent decisions on behalf of its customers.  At a time when many utilities have feared doing research, American Water has been an example that an investment in research is a commitment to sound utility management and increased sustainability for current and future generations.

Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati is leading the charge for cleaner, greener, and smarter strategies to reduce water pollution, beautify neighborhoods, and drive economic development. Their green infrastructure strategy is winning support from regulators, environmentalists, and businesses.

Orange County Water District and Sanitation District’s Ground Water Replenishment System is recognized as a global leader in reclamation and reuse. Their award-winning efforts to reclaim 70 million gallons per day is expanding to 100 million gallons per day, all to reduce regional water insecurity and recharge precious supplies.

With the variety of daunting challenges facing the nation’s water supply including climate change, increasingly frequent droughts and floods, population growth, environmental protection, urban sprawl, deteriorating infrastructure, and demand from energy production, agriculture and manufacturing, the Alliance is working to address these daunting issues and change the water paradigm so that water is viewed, managed and valued as one resource. To that end, the Alliance created the United States Water Prize Program to encourage and celebrate individuals and institutions that develop projects or programs that are innovative and have a clear impact on the advancement of water sustainability.

This year’s winners will be honored in an awards ceremony on April 7, 2014, at National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. The recognition program will be attended by more than 300 water leaders from throughout the United States. The ceremony also helps kick off Water Week in D.C. where Water and wastewater professionals from communities across the country will come together to consider and advocate for national policies that advance clean and safe waters and a healthy sustainable environment.

Ben Grumbles is President of the U.S. Water Alliance. He has served as Director of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality, Assistant Administrator for Water at U.S. EPA, and in the U.S. House of Representatives on both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Science Committee. While at EPA, he helped launch their water efficiency program–WaterSense, as well as other initiatives on green infrastructure, water climate change, wetlands, and pharmaceuticals in water. Ben has a Masters Degree in environmental law from George Washington University, a J.D. from Emory University Law School, and a B.A. from Wake Forest University.

The U.S. Water Alliance is an organization dedicated to uniting people and policy for water sustainability. Possessing one of the broadest and most diverse memberships in the country, the Alliance has public and private sector leaders focusing on quality and quantity water issues both above and below the surface. The Alliance also focuses on the connections of energy, land, food and transportation as they relate to water, and the need for an integrated “one water” management philosophy. Mr. Grumbles has an extensive career in water and environmental policy.