| First Water 2050 think tank envisions the path to sustainability
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First Water 2050 think tank envisions the path to sustainability

Water 2050 logoSurrounded by desert vegetation at the site of an historical source of water in Las Vegas, 24 professionals from a wide spectrum of the water and related sectors gathered Sept. 21-23 to collaborate in the first of five think tanks associated with the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Water 2050 initiative.

As they met in the heart of the increasingly arid southwestern United States, participants discussed and debated a range of topics including source water protection, infrastructure, water resources, net zero emissions and climate change. They brought expertise from water utilities, industry, government, academics, agriculture, nonprofits, and service providers.  

Sustainability Think Tank participantsOver the course of three days, they envisioned the transformations needed to forge a resilient, equitable and effective water sector over the next 28 years. (Pictured left, Sustainability Think Tank participants.)

“There is no silver bullet to achieve sustainability,” said a think tank participant. “It will take all hands on deck, including every person who consumes water.”

Four other think tanks will be held to visualize the future of water through the additional drivers of technology, economics, governance, and social/demographics. The next one -- Think Tank on Technology -- is scheduled for Dec. 5-7 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley.

think tank participant Negin TousiHigh-level recommendations, action steps and insights will be reported after each think tank, and after all five are completed, the reports will be combined into a final report. Some of the guidance will be presented at ACE23 to support the water community in realizing the Water 2050 vision. (Pictured right, think tank participant Negin Tousi shares recommendations from a small group discussion.)

“The aspirational insights and recommendations that emerge from the collaborative work around Water 2050 will drive AWWA’s business plans and significantly influence our upcoming 2030 Strategic Plan,” said LaFrance. “The powerful part is that we will benefit from the input from the think tanks as well as from AWWA sections, councils, members, leadership, staff and partners.” 

Inspiration for the Water 2050 initiative stems from an October 2021 discussion by the AWWA Board of Directors about what the water sector might look like in 2050. The initiative was officially launched during an opening session at ACE22 in San Antonio, Texas, that featured a video sharing reflections about the future of water and challenges ahead from the perspectives of young professionals. 

At the AWWA Council Summit this October, each of the six councils representing the highest level of expertise and knowledge across the sector will spend time discussing questions related to the Water 2050 initiative, then report back to the full gathering. 

Ultimately, Water 2050 is intended to ripple beyond the water community, fostering partnerships and cross-sector collaboration for mutual and global benefit.  

“It’s time to step out of the norm and start thinking big picture,” said a think tank participant. “To succeed, it will really be important for everyone to understand what needs to be done, agree, and get behind it.”