The Water Campaign’s Strategic Approach

Tomas Ovalle PhotoThe campaign’s work focuses on six strategies that are essential for addressing 21st century water challenges.  Water Table funders prioritized these strategies based on their urgency, potential impact, and suitability for philanthropic influence. The campaign will drive funding to advance these strategies in regions where Water Table members and their funding partners are most active.

  • Enable flexible distribution of water: As the West grapples with increasing water scarcity and demand, extreme weather, and changing economies, we need efficient and effective systems that can easily shift water to different uses. Philanthropy can help demonstrate the value of beneficial transactions and flexible management strategies, such as water markets and water banks; support advocacy for healthy trading systems and strong institutions to manage them; and involve all relevant stakeholders and important social equity and environmental considerations in the design of these systems.
  • Strengthen communications to build political will: Everyone has a fundamental interest in clean, reliable water, yet existing outreach, journalism, and other media about water typically fail to engage the public’s hearts and minds. Philanthropy can help spur the development of more compelling narratives and broader coverage of the issue to build interest and demand for action.
  • Drive decisions with data: Better data about water systems can enable rapid, science-based, and flexible responses to water challenges – from managing scarcity to ensuring clean drinking water to prioritizing urgent infrastructure upgrades. Philanthropy has unique potential to advance innovations in water data by elevating open, accessible water data as a priority and brokering and catalyzing relationships between governments, businesses, and researchers.
  • Develop new funding sources: Underfunding for the operations, facilities, data, transactions, and planning crucial to sound water management is chronic. Philanthropy can help diversify funding for sustainable water management and infrastructure by integrating water risk and value into investment decisions, building a pipeline of impact investment opportunities, and catalyzing public and private investment in water solutions.
  • Improve water governance: Oversight and management of water in the West are fragmented across many utilities, districts, and agencies with overlapping, piecemeal, or otherwise uncoordinated roles. This fragmentation leads to unrepresentative, inefficient, and contradictory decision-making, which impedes transparency needed for democratic accountability. Philanthropy can promote governance structures that raise up leaders representative of, and accountable to, the communities they serve, including disadvantaged communities, and that advance sound water management decisions (e.g., reduce risks associated with over-allocation, promote water conservation practices, protect environmental values, improve water quality, and respond to climate variability).
  • Accelerate innovation: New technologies and practices can advance transformative changes in water management. For example, innovative improvements in stormwater management and green infrastructure can help reduce pressure on cities to build costly and environmentally damaging dams and diversions. Funders can continue to foster development and deployment of innovative technologies and practices to advance goals in the urban, agricultural, energy, and environmental water sectors.
Photo credit: Tomas Ovalle