Companies and regional water experts from New Orleans to Baton Rouge gathered in New Orleans this week to launch an industry-led initiative aimed at finding and implementing solutions to critical regional water challenges.
The meeting, led by the US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), kicked off the Louisiana Water Synergy Project, a structured forum providing the opportunity for watershed users to identify water quality, quantity, and storm water management issues in the New Orleans to Baton Rouge Mississippi River Corridor, find solutions that work, and get them implemented. Through this project, the US BCSD seeks to work with local business leaders to achieve tangible water conservation and quality improvements, and establish a long-term water collaboration plan in the region by harnessing collective industry capabilities and interests. In addition, it plans to develop a replicable work process that could be applied in other water-challenged regions.
“The opening session of the Water Synergy Project provided the workshop design team with a solid foundation of information regarding industry’s relationship to natural waters in the regional watershed. We are now eager to explore challenges and opportunities of the future of water in Louisiana,” said Dr. Robert A. Thomas of Loyola University.
The meeting was hosted by Entergy Corporation in New Orleans. Steven Scheurich, VP, Customer Service and Commercial & Industrial Accounts, Entergy Louisiana, set the stage for the meeting with opening remarks emphasizing the importance of industry collaboration to get ahead of water management challenges that otherwise could damage the economic viability and attractiveness of Louisiana to both residents and businesses.
The 45 attendees at the February 8th meeting included representatives from the oil and gas, chemicals, steel, fertilizer, and food and beverage industries, other businesses, and regional planning organizations. The project has also raised interest from municipal water management agencies, local and regional planning organizations, and water specialists. Partnerships with governments and non-governmental organizations such as parks and wildlife organizations and water conservation groups, are expected to be added as specific water management strategies are prioritized for action.
In development since October 2010, the project will apply the US BCSD’s facilitated collaborative work process to provide a safe zone where public and private stakeholders can identify issues, find and prioritize alternative solutions, and craft implementation plans for their watershed/region. The project also seeks to build partnerships in the region and has already established a memorandum of understanding with Waggonner & Ball Architects, the lead contractor selected by Greater New Orleans, Inc. to develop a long-term water strategy for the New Orleans region.
“Water management can create a better community, leveraging existing structures for reinvestment in a sustainable city, enhancing safety and insurability, improving urban and environmental quality, and spurring creative industry and entrepreneurship. Community-wide cooperation on a regional scale, including support from business and industry stakeholders, is essential to achieve these aims,” said David Waggonner, Waggonner & Ball.
The project also introduces an innovative financing mechanism that allows participants to pay for energy efficiency retrofits of their water systems with little or no upfront costs. The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was authorized in Louisiana under SB 224 in 2009. While a number of additional development steps are required prior to implementation of this program, the US BCSD’s national PACE collaborator, Ygrene Energy Fund and its banking partner, Barclays Capital, have pledged an initial $100 million to finance viable energy saving projects from project participants.
The US BCSD has a 15-year track record of successful By-Product Synergy and afforestation projects. This track record demonstrates that collaborations can be highly productive, usually grow in value and scope, lasting years, or even decades, and are capable of accomplishing long-term results that generate economic returns while improving the environment and society — the triple bottom line.
The US BCSD is a results-focused non-profit business association whose members work on authentic sustainability projects with industry, governmental and other key stakeholders, www.usbcsd.org. It is part of a network of 60 national councils worldwide focused on actually implementing sustainable development. It is also a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a global network of 200 international companies with members drawn from 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors, www.wbcsd.org.