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Meridian Institute

Charting New Waters

External Project Site: www.johnsonfdn.org/aboutus/chartingnewwaters
Related: Environment and Natural Resources, Resilience

Meridian Institute provided process design and facilitation services to The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread throughout the Foundation’s six-year examination of U.S. freshwater issues. The effort—known as Charting New Waters—was initiated in 2008 and evolved through three phases.

In phase one, participants in a series of Wingspread conferences examined freshwater challenges associated with climate change, the built environment, agriculture and food production, the water–energy nexus, and public health. That phase culminated with the CEO-level Freshwater Summit on June 9, 2010, and with the September 2010 release of Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges. The consensus-based Call to Action drew from the earlier convenings and detailed potential solutions to the nation’s looming water crisis. A diverse group of signatories agreed on the recommendations and made commitments to action.

Phase two of Charting New Waters took place from 2011 to 2013 and focused at first on the issue of water infrastructure financing. During the summer of 2011, the Foundation hosted two webinars and a conference in partnership with American Rivers and Ceres to examine challenges and emerging options for financing sustainable water infrastructure—an effort that culminated with a report and invited testimony before Congress. This phase also included two regional convenings in Boston and Denver, which generated insights into how freshwater challenges were playing out in different parts of the county and the kinds of solutions that are viable in two very different regions.

The third and final phase of Charting New Waters focused on catalyzing the widespread adoption of sustainable and resilient water infrastructure systems in the United States. In 2013 and 2014, the Foundation convened discussions about transforming the nation’s water infrastructure to adapt to and mitigate climate change; fostering collaboration between water and electric power utilities; ensuring urban water security; improving urban nutrient management; advancing the use of distributed water infrastructure; and developing an action plan for New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure.

In September 2014, the final phase culminated with the release of Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources. This final report delivered timely recommendations to catalyze transformative changes in how the United States manages its freshwater resources in the face of climate change, failing infrastructure, drought, extreme storms, and other critical challenges. The body of work under Charting New Waters was informed by the knowledge and insights of more than 600 individuals from approximately 265 organizations that participated in dozens of convenings between 2008 and 2014. 



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