“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” – Jacques Cousteau.

Whether our world is prepared or not – climate change has come to remind us. Drought or flooding, rising sea levels or crumbling infrastructure, shifting migration patterns and socio-political unrest, the impacts of climate change are plainly visible in our most important natural resource: water. The importance of water management and scarcity will only become clearer as the effects of climate change become increasingly visible and disruptive in our everyday lives. Businesses have already been forced to respond, as witnessed by the massive protests against Nestlé’s water bottling plants, and the complete departure of Intel’s semiconductor fabrication plants from California. With the state’s agricultural sector now using over 80% of California’s water, its clear that our strategies for managing these limited water resources must adapt – and quickly.

If there’s a sliver lining, it’s that persistent drought conditions across the Western United States have drawn new attention to how we manage and allocate our water resources. That more than 1 million Californians lack reliable access to clean and safe drinking water is unacceptable, and has been a longstanding reality for many communities. While drought conditions may be the new normal, these social injustices are not – along with the ineffective policies, overuse and misallocation of natural resources, and inefficient infrastructure that compound the impacts of a changing climate.

Confluence Philanthropy partnered with Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, and The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities to organize the first ever Western Water Briefing: Strategies for Resilience on August 2-3, 2016 at the San Diego Foundation. Considering these momentous water challenges, the Briefing explored how philanthropic and impact investment capital could play a role in shaping our water future.

This 1.5-day event engaged over 50 funder, advisor, government, and nonprofit participants to discuss how all stakeholders can take effective action to address water issues in the region.

 “It was both invigorating and informative to have so many investors, investment advisors,  and water experts together in one room. While this is still an emerging   investment market, the growth trajectory is encouraging.” – Margaret Bowman, Consultant, Walton Family Foundation

“The CGBD was very glad to be part of this important briefing. The urgency of the subject cannot be overstated.” – Lynn Lohr, Executive Director, CGBD

 “The Western Water Briefing was a valuable and unique blending of wide range of philanthropic and impact investing perspectives. Information and interests ranged from effective     markets and environmental justice concerns to leveraging private sector investment.” – Lester Snow, Executive Director, The Water Foundation

Over the course of the conference, speakers and attendees addressed a variety of perspectives for how strategic investment can play a role in water resilience. Participants examined historical trends in foundation grantmaking for water-related issues, as well as innovative practices and new technologies to manage resources efficiently. Public servants shared their experience and visions for updating their cities’ infrastructure to improve water supply for everyone, while regionally-based foundations offered stories of their localized efforts to combat scarcity in particularly vulnerable communities. At the same time, investment advisors considered ways to impact water sustainability through environmentally responsible investment. With such a variety of expertise present together, participants found points of connection across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. And those connections – new, old, or rediscovered – presented opportunities for the kind of strategic collaboration that we need to mitigate and adapt to environmental changes.

Speakers throughout the day included:

  • Brooke Barton, CERES
  • Ricardo Bayon, Encourage Capital
  • Susan Bell, Water Funder Initiative
  • Margaret Bowman, Walton Family Foundation
  • Dr. Barbara Buchner, Climate Policy Initiative
  • Franny Canfield, EGA
  • Peter Culp, Culp & Kelly, LLP
  • Geoff Eisenberg, Ecosystem Integrity Fund
  • Alvar Escriva-Bou, Public Policy Center Institute of California
  • Remy Goldsmith, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Julie Goodridge, NorthStar Asset Management
  • Adel Hagekhalil, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation
  • Nicola Hedge, San Diego Foundation
  • Bruce Kahn, Switzer Foundation
  • Cynthia Koehler, WaterNow Alliance
  • Chip Krotee, Perella Weinberg Foundation
  • Dana Lanza, Confluence Philanthropy
  • Judi Larsen, The California Endowment
  • Lynn Lohr, CGBD
  • Leigh Madeira, Blue Forest Conservation
  • Kelli McCune, Sustainable Conservation
  • Kathlyn Mead, San Diego Foundation
  • Liz Michaels, Aperio Group
  • Marc Rand, Avivar Capital
  • Diane Schrauth, The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth & Livable Communities
  • Adam Scow, Food & Water Watch
  • Lester Snow, The Water Foundation
  • Josh Stanbro, Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Maureen Stapleton, San Diego County Water Authority
  • Allison Harvey Turner, SD Bechtel Jr Foundation
  • Kathy Viatella, The Water Foundation

“There’s been real momentum around the intersection of water scarcity and impact investing in the funder community, so it was great to get grantmakers that are already engaged on one or both issues in the same room and see them come away with actionable next steps, and to take part in a growing conversation we can build upon in the coming months.” – Environmental Grantmakers Association

Confluence members will continue discussions about how to address water scarcity through impact investment via an upcoming fall webinar and the publication of a report summarizing the outcomes from the Briefing. Please contact Sarah DeNicola, Membership Program Manager, for more information: sarah@confluencephilanthropy.org

Many thanks to our sponsors for helping to make this event possible!

Consultative Group on Biological Diversity | Encourage Capital | Environmental Grantmakers’ Association | Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Cities | Walton Family Foundation