Obama pitches for water innovation spend

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US President Barack Obama has put forward a package of measures totalling close to $300 million in his 2017 budget proposal with the aim of stimulating innovation around water.

The funding backs up an innovation strategy launched in December which aims in particular to bring down the cost of alternative sources such as desalination to achieve ‘pipe parity’ with the costs of conventional sources.

In the wider budget, the US Environmental Protection Agency is set to receive an additional $158 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which is the primary source of federal funds to support state and local water infrastructure improvements. However, the budget also proposes a $370 million cut in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which targets watewater treatment and water quality improvements.

The White House launched the innovation strategy as a joint public-private initiative and will be hosting a meeting on 22 March, World Water Day, to bring together government, private sector and other stakeholder representatives to look at how progress can be made on the strategy.

The two-part strategy aims boost water sustainability through greater use of water-efficient and water reuse technologies and by promoting and investing in research to cut the cost of new water supply technology. The proposed budget includes $25 million in new funding for the Department of Energy to launch an Energy-Water Desalination Hub. This is to focus on developing technologies to reduce the cost, energy input and carbon emission levels of desalination. Alongside this, the DOE would invest almost $20 million in complementary research on desalination technologies for use in fossil fuel, concentrated solar power and geothermal applications.

Almost $29 million is budgeted for research and development at the Bureau of Reclamation, up $8.6 million on 2016. This includes $8.5 million funding for its water technology solutions challenge programme, $5.8 million for research on desalination and water purification, and $2 million to continue the Open Water Data initiative.

The largest component of the package is $98.6 million in funding for the WaterSMART programme of the Department of the Interior, up by $10.6 million compared to 2016. This promotes water conservation and development of technologies. Another $88 million is for funding basic water research by the National Science Foundation.

The proposed budget also includes $4 million in new funding for the US Geological Survey for near real-time assessment of water use during drought, and $15 million in extra funding for water-related research by the US Department of Agriculture.

See: Obama eyes a water innovation opportunity


  • USA, water research, innovation