White House Water Summit: Emulating DOE Model with $5 Billion Table Stakes

This post originally appeared on EnergyBiz.com and EnergyCentral.com.

The White House is standing-up a Water Resources intra-agency organization which will function like the go-go days of the Department of Energy with “shovel ready” projects which helped spark today’s solar, smart grid and alternative energy industry. According to White House officials interviewed the night before the White House Water Summit, the comparison is appropos. So far, private business is bringing over $5 billion in “commitments” to the table.

The White House requested commitments from industry, non-profit organizations and energy sector think tanks to spur solutions to water infrastructure problems. While Flint, Michigan’s drinking water quality crisis was an accelator, the Administration insists the summit planning and financial commitments were underway over a year ago. Still, with record flooding this year, record drought and water quality infrastructure concerns in major cities across the U.S., World Water Day could come not a moment too soon.

“You will see a parallel in the water arena to the energy sector and it is an apt parallel,” said Ali Zaida of the Office of Management and Budget, “like the Sun programs in the beginning of the Administration that galvanized the energy sector, scientists and industry.”

“We brought over the person who has been creating the solar program (at DOE) to now handle water. We can boost water supply all over the country, create jobs and make water an export for the future,” said Zaida.

John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy added: “Critical infrastructure (investment) includes dams, pipes and things that deliver water. The Energy system of our country is coupled-in to the water system. Cooling of power plants accounts for about 40% of the drawing of fresh water from our country” for instance. Director Holdren indicated over $1 billion in new private research and development will be focused on finding solutions to our nation’s water crisis.

Zaida added that entrepreneurs and projects being showcased at the summit in Washington will help conserve over 100 billion gallons of water over the next decade.