Water is a critical limiting resource in the Western United States. But it is more than that. Water is at the heart of what helps people and nature thrive. Water fuels the most practical aspects of our lives, and also stirs our imaginations.
The Western waters we raft, fish, or simply enjoy looking at from the car window on a summer road trip are facing an increasing number of challenges. And so is our water management approach, which a wide range of observers believe is outdated and not up to the water challenges of this century. Intense flooding and drought are being exacerbated by climate change; agriculture and rapid urbanization have stressed Western water reserves; and urban and rural communities alike are experiencing water pollution challenges.
Fortunately, there is a growing understanding of these threats and opportunities, which is spurring us to think differently and embrace new, integrated approaches that meet the West’s collective water needs. Now is the perfect moment for a new vision for water in the region—and for leadership that can drive transformation at the scale and pace required.
A leader that can make a difference is the Water Foundation, which has tackled water quantity and quality issues for the last several years in California. Today, it is taking a big new step to better meet the challenges of water in the West—launching as an independent grantmaking foundation.
As Chair of the Water Foundation board, I look forward to helping the organization grow. The Pisces Foundation has been proud to support the Water Foundation’s work since our Trustee, Robert Fisher, helped launch the initiative in 2011 that led to its founding. Our staff has been closely involved in its development and growth, and we are excited by its move to launch as a stand-alone foundation.
Under the new leadership of CEO Wade Crowfoot, who helped lead California’s response to its recent, epic drought as a member of the Brown Administration, the organization will provide partners with the resources, expertise, and connections they need to advance innovative water management solutions. Recognizing that waterways bridge political boundaries, and communities and natural places face shared challenges West-wide, the Water Foundation will apply lessons learned through its California experience across the region.
We’ve seen what the Water Foundation can do to advance innovative, thoughtful solutions. Since it began supporting organizations like Sustainable Conservation to champion on-farm groundwater recharge, the practice has expanded to 130 demonstration sites covering almost 14,000 acres in California.
This practice could transform how groundwater aquifers are replenished on our working farmlands in the state. The Water Foundation’s support of the Community Water Center also paved the way for a published study highlighting the lack of safe, reliable drinking water in some Central Valley schools. This locally driven effort has raised the profile of safe drinking water issues in California and the impacts of groundwater pollution on some of our most vulnerable populations.
As the only foundation exclusively focused on water management in the West, the Water Foundation will serve as a strategic grantmaker and capacity builder to nonprofits throughout in the region that can provide the solutions for our most pressing water challenges. There’s a lot of work to do. But our whole team at the Pisces Foundation looks forward to helping this early mover protect our most precious and essential resource.