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Local Water Managers and Statewide Integrated Water Resource Policy – A Business Perspective

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Business leaders are all too often “missing in action” when critical public policy input is needed — they are, and rightly so, preoccupied with their business, with tight schedules that preclude extensive face-to-face meetings. Nonetheless, their input is vital to realize true economic benefit and to avoid unintended consequences of policy and planning.

To avoid this situation, in late 2007 business leaders and selected academic and environmental partners came together under the auspices of the Oregon Business Plan, to evaluate whether water management and infrastructure-related topics posed issues and opportunities critical to the economic well being of the state. This Water Working Group concluded that access to ample and quality water supply is a strategic global advantage for businesses operating in Oregon, and hence is a significant enabler for growth and attractor for new businesses. Oregon businesses are concerned about water policy because all businesses need sufficient water quantity and quality to attract high-quality employees, produce goods and provide services, whether directly such as for food and other crops, manufacturing, or indirectly such as for residential, recreational, aesthetic, and tourism benefits. Many service providers rely upon dependable water supply as an ingredient of their value-added services, whether for health care, financial services, real estate or hospitality. Overall, these factors help to attract and retain employees – an essential for business success in this global economy.

The resulting 2008 Draft Water Initiative offered a new model for creating economically viable future communities and preserving the quality of life for established cities and industries. This Draft Initiative recommended that stakeholders at the state and local levels:

Endorse a long term vision of Oregon water managed as a valuable and critical asset by all Oregonians for all Oregonians, providing safe and sustainable water for all beneficial uses.

Accelerate the transition to a water management system that supports this vision by 2050

Water is managed as finite resource based on hydrologic reality

Water planning is integrated with energy, transportation, habitat and land use planning

Water management aims to achieve multiple benefits, and

Water allocation occurs through an efficient market.

Prepare for key regional decision points in 2014 as foundation for realizing this vision

Increase public awareness and education around water, and assess water priorities and values.

Establish systems for data collection that will support water management based on supply and demand realities, and inform integrated and adaptive management decisions.

Encourage multiple benefit, multiple partner projects that exemplify integrated management solutions.

Stimulate development of water technologies and best practices that enable Oregon's integrated water management, while advancing new technologies into the global marketplace.

The Draft Initiative was vetted at the annual Oregon Business Plan Leadership Summit in December 2008, and a standing group has been established to carry the Initiative forward through future development and implementation. The evolving Initiative is based on collaborative water planning and projects at the local and regional levels, executed and funded within a policy framework that maximizes the benefits of water access across the state.

The considerations addressed in this process, recommended path forward, and progress are detailed herein. Steps underway are refining the problem statement, further developing how market and regulatory forces might work to finance cost-effective capital investment and operations, examining entities and legal provisions that might underpin such a system, and stimulating dialogue among business stakeholders at local and regional levels. Stakeholders will assemble at the December 2010 Leadership Summit to refine and endorse the Initiative, including recommended State Legislative and Executive Branch activities in 2011.
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Keywords: Water policy; ecosystem services; infrastructure financing; integrated water resource planning; sustainable development; water markets

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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