Faster paths to safer and cleaner water

Every American depends on clean water to survive, and more than 50,000 public and private water utilities provide it to us.  Water is essential to the farmers that produce our food, provides wildlife habitat, and is the basis for enormous recreational and economic opportunities.  Federal and state laws, conservation programs and assistance, and government funding and financing have each played a role in helping the country achieve cleaner, safer, and more abundant water.  We work on a number of new areas of policy that are helping make more progress possible.


We support initiatives to use private funding or innovative contracting to deliver the water goal faster.  That might include faster replacement of unsafe lead water pipes serving daycare centers, or speeding up green infrastructure installation to more quickly lower nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment.  We work to make policy more supportive of those goals and to create an incentive for faster success.  For example, we analyzed how two local jurisdictions used Public Private Partnerships and Pay for Success contracts to allow the private sector to quickly meet stormwater goals that benefit the Chesapeake Bay and expand green jobs.

Innovative water quality partnerships

We work to help create policies that encourage previously unlikely but mutually beneficial partnerships around clean water.  For example, cities or suburbs face the need to install expensive water treatment to prevent stormwater and runoff from poisoning streams, rivers, and some of America’s biggest water bodies like the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico.  However, if regulators let them, those cities and suburbs can often achieve the same water quality goal at a much lower price by working with partners in other parts of the watershed to install green infrastructure and conservation practices.  Our work is focused on supporting the development of rural-urban partnerships that are a win for both and for the environment.

Profitable stream and wetland restoration

Private, for-profit efforts to protect and restore wetlands has become a billion-dollar enterprise in the United States, now expanded to achieve some of the same benefits for thousands of miles of streams.  Clear, predictable Clean Water Act regulations were critical to this success in building a restoration economy.  Private restoration expertise, backed by private funding, is now being used by state and local governments in more places to deliver additional water, ecosystem, and habitat benefits as we describe in our report on Pay for Success approaches in conservation.  We support work that redirects government policy away from grants and toward programs that pay farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, or businesses when they produce water outcomes that the public values.

Water tech

Data technology is critical to make environmental markets work.  Monitoring innovations are often the best way to build public trust in environmental programs.  Software is increasingly as valuable to farmers as human technical assistance in figuring out precisely where to farm, install conservation practices, or apply chemicals and fertilizer in ways that enhance profits and sustainability.  New sensors and other equipment are making it possible for the first time to implement ecosystem service payment programs on a large scale.  We are trying to develop new policy approaches that are interdependent with technology and that provide more customization and predictability to rules and incentives, thus benefiting the economy and environment.



STORMWATER INNOVATION: A tale of two counties, one city, and how to implement effective approaches to reverse the harm from polluted runoff

"Stormwater Innovation" is our report analyzing how two of the leading local governments in the country are succeeding or failing to deliver effective stormwater projects on public and private land.

November 2018


"Conservation & Impact Investment" is our report describing leadership by Louisiana, California, Maryland, and Nevada in creating outcome-based opportunities for private investment in natural resource restoration and protection.

July 2017

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