Brief Bio: Sarah recently joined the WaterNow Alliance team as the Communications & Outreach Manager. Sarah has a background in community management, strategic partnerships, project management, and communication. Her prior work includes research and development, tech, business, and policy work with a focus on water management and resource sustainability. She previously worked for GreenBiz Group, Google and the state of California, and lived in Tel Aviv, Israel for a year consulting for three different water technology start-ups.
I spoke with Sarah about her past work and her excitement about helping WaterNow Alliance ensure a sustainable water future for all.
What initially compelled you to pursue a career in sustainable water management?
Growing up in California, it’s hard to be unaware of the feast and famine nature of water availability and accessibility in the state and beyond. I grew up in a family that was adamant about water conservation and reuse, so by the time I went to college, sustainable water management had practically been built into my DNA.
Clean water access will be the fight of my generation, and we need to start laying the groundwork to ensure sustainable access now. There are so many incredible and innovative approaches to sustainable water management, and I’m incredibly excited to be working at WaterNow with a coalition of water leaders who fight for resilient water strategies.
You had the opportunity to work with several water-tech companies in Israel. What type of technologies and solutions are they exploring in Israel that you think could benefit water management in the US?
Israel is such a unique entity in the way they approach and manage water that in many ways it’s hard to compare. However, one incredible thing that Israel is able to do is recycle more than 80% of their water and nearly half of all irrigation comes from greywater. The next closest country is Spain at around 20%. That’s pretty incredible, and it’s certainly not at all out of the realm of possibility for us. Greywater treatment technology exists both onsite and in treatment plants. Arizona is a great leader in this field, and other parts of the country are starting to catch up, like the Salesforce tower in SF just implemented the largest commercial black-water system in the United States. In a standard household, around 40% of water used can be collected and reused for outdoor irrigation and other non-potable uses.
Finding ways to enable household and commercial greywater reuse and treatment is an important step in conservation and essential to expanding our water resources.
What barriers can water tech companies face when trying to establish partnerships with water utilities and agencies?
I think the biggest barrier that water tech companies face is the lack of understanding about the ways in which utilities and agencies function, and the huge diversity in a utility’s ability and openness to adopting new technologies.
Most tech companies assume “here is a problem, and here is our technology that can help fix it,” but as anyone who has worked with government knows, adopting technology is not this simple. Lack of adoption is not necessarily due to lack of desire, but sometimes lack of funding, a complicated approval process, or lack of capacity. Hopefully our work on clarifying the Government Accounting Standards Board’s guidelines for cities and utilities that are looking to adopt long-term water saving solutions will help to address this issue.
Which of WaterNow’s current projects and initiatives excites you the most? Why?
Am I allowed to say all of them? It seems cliché, but it’s true. Tackling water sustainability isn’t a one stop shop, it’s a multi-solution approach to a multi-faceted subject. No one solution will be right for every community, and everyone has different challenges that they face when trying to solve water issues.
For some communities that want to encourage distributed infrastructure but are struggling to find funding, as I mentioned above, our work on clarifying the Government Accounting Standards Board’s guidelines for debt funding distributed infrastructure is an essential way to create opportunity. For communities interested in investing in larger scale green infrastructure projects and need to convey the importance of these projects to their ratepayers and constituents, the WaterNow Communications Toolkit and “Communicating with Ratepayers” presentation is essential. All of our tools and resources are available on our website, here.
Our inboxes are under siege every day by competing information, event invitations, and requests. Why should WaterNow members and other local electeds, tune into WaterNow’s communications?
WaterNow isn’t here to sell you a product or a specific solution. We’re here to partner with you to help you achieve the right solution for your community – no strings attached. That’s incredibly rare, both in the government space and the technology space. Let’s be honest, no one wants to read a monthly newsletter or get their 17th event invitation, but if you’re looking for a forum to explore water leadership and ways to champion sustainable, affordable, and climate resilient water strategies, we are here to help.
What’s one thing that WaterNow Members could do today to jumpstart their involvement in the Alliance?
Come to our summit! At this year's summit we’re diving into a number of sustainable water challenges and solutions applicable to local water leader. We have a number of incredible workshops, including creative financing, communicating with ratepayers, opportunities to deploy new data innovations in decision making and more. We’re also fortunate to have incredible speakers and an active and engaging agenda, which you can view here. It’s free to attend and travel funding is available for WaterNow Members.
Ultimately, there's so many ways to think about the ways we engage with water and water resources. But it's essential we start now.