Marianne Horinko

Authored by: Marianne L. Horinko, President, THG

December 2011

Being “green” has become not only trendy, but mainstream in our society. Retailers tout their earth-friendly products; carmakers applaud high mileage vehicles; celebrities showcase their nurseries and eco-friendly abodes. Earth Day has become a staple in the cultural lexicon. The days of granola-eating tree-huggers are in the rear view mirror of our collective vision.

The challenge for consumers is defining exactly what “green” means in everyday lives. No federal law or regulation prescribes a well-defined term for “green.” Some governmental agencies set forth guidelines for specific parts of sustainability – EPA has the Energy Star and WaterSense programs; the Department of Agriculture has the Sustainable Farms program for organic foods, for example. In other cases, industry groups, academics, and non-profits have filled in the blanks – LEED, Sustainable Forestry, Green Guides, Green Seal, to name a few.

However, this plethora of information might leave consumers in the lurch. Does green mean energy savings? Lower fuel costs? Less greenhouse gas? Or, does it mean fewer toxic chemicals, reduced waste, and water efficiency? Do we have sufficient information to guarantee the health of our families and communities?

An obvious remedy for this problem would be national consensus on what “green” actions ordinary citizens can implement to help save the planet. However, coming to such consensus will not be easy. There is no mandate for Congress to act, nor is there clear jurisdiction, since we are talking about consumer products, neighborhoods, transportation, and watersheds. In addition, any national effort would take years to enact, while technology evolves at a rapid pace.

Our society is in need of an adaptive and inclusive solution. A three-pronged approach could achieve the consensus on how we the people may become “green” in a sensible way:

  1. Scientific basis. Any solution must be grounded in peer-reviewed science. Academia, with the assistance and oversight of industry, non-profits, and regular citizens, can publish and gain consensus on how to separate the wheat from the chaff on claims of environmental friendliness (and the criteria). Further, we might use this issue as a stepping-stone to leverage innovation and scientific endeavor. The United States has always been blessed with a wealth of research and inventive technologies; by establishing a beachhead in sustainability, we can further our children’s education in the sciences and medicine such that we drive worldwide progress towards a healthier planet.

  2. Fairness. As new guidelines are developed, a standardized process should be implemented for regular review and comment on the criteria. This process will inevitably be controversial, and clearly a one-size fits all solution will not be the answer. Further, the criteria will be sufficiently value-laden that individuals may wish to focus on particular aspects of sustainability. However, like most public discourse, an airing of the issues can only improve the output.

  3. Media. Here, consumer and health groups play an important role, along with industry members seeking to establish a marketplace role for healthy and sustainable products. The more we are educated and involved as a society in making smart decisions, the better quality of life we will enjoy.

In this digital age, social media has become the societal marketing tool. No doubt Facebook, Twitter, and their progeny will play a major role in helping to “trend” environmental progress – specifically, in actions that individuals can take to improve their neighborhoods and cities. However, traditional media will continue to be a significant amplifier for these individual trends. By driving awareness, both social and traditional media can help advance and deploy sustainability tools in a much more rapid and hands-on manner than old school, legislative and/or regulatory techniques. These ideas will ultimately ripple through the business and governmental establishment.

The Path Forward

In this time of recession and retrenchment, being “green” has an important advantage to many citizens and employers – it is efficient. Our grandparents were right when they said, “waste not; want not.” As global businesses scan issues such as water scarcity, energy costs, and improper disposal liability, a prudent and fiscally sound environmental management strategy makes enormous sense. Similarly, individual homeowners and municipalities will understand the bottom-line implications of energy and water conservation, reduced waste, and smart consumer choices. These decisions simply help all of our pocketbooks.

Driving awareness of nature and our natural resources also builds upon the traditionally American traits of curiosity and adventure. Much as the pioneers sought to map out the great West, and Thomas Jefferson to catalog the seeds and species of North America, our children will learn to preserve and protect the great natural formations that created this country and allow us still, recession notwithstanding, to enjoy tremendous bounty.

Finally, a collective willingness to preserve and protect the fundamental gifts that made this country great can only play to our strengths as a nation of “givers.” Ultimately, we all benefit from our founders’ vision of a nation that is devoted to the general welfare. By protecting our precious natural assets and teaching our children the value of resource conservation, we share with future generations our commitment to a healthier and more beautiful planet.

Green Infrastructure, Low Impact Development, and Sustainable Landscapes

GOVGreen 2011 Panel

Delivered by: Patrick McGinnis, Water Resources Team Leader, THG
November 30, 2011
Washington, DC Convention Center
2011 CEIL’s GOVgreen Conference and Exposition

My name is Pat McGinnis. I currently advise The Horinko Group on water resource matters. The Horinko Group is a DC-based environmental consulting firm focused on water, energy, and remediation working along side clients and partners from government, business, communities, academic institutions, and non-profits.

I came to the group in 2009 after completing a 32-year career with the Corps of Engineers. I am a Wildlife Biologist by training. I began my career with the Corps as a Regulatory Wetland Specialist but spent the last twenty years as an Operational Project Manager on the Mississippi River serving as a public lands administrator overseeing the planning, re-development and protection of a sustainable footprint on 50,000 acres along the riparian corridor upstream of St. Louis, MO.

This experience and my own core values shaped my regard for the importance of sustaining the natural capital of aquatic ecosystems, the importance of open space to livable communities, the power of nature-based tourism to diversify rural economies, and the importance of green infrastructure and low impact development to protecting our nation’s water resources.

During this time, I gained a valuable and necessary perspective about shaping stakeholder expectations and building consensus around the business case for green infrastructure approaches.

Our group believes that three sectors are central to advancing the standing of green infrastructure and low impact development in our lives. Those include the governance sector, the advocacy sector, and the business sector.

Too many of our nation’s environmental challenges, whether it be the protection of water quality and open space, or effectively managing risk to foster confidence and future investment, each are being advanced with too little outreach to the American people, too little emphasis on using a system perspective to show folks where and how the dots are connected, and why source protection and control, storm water management, water quality, and open space are all central to sustaining natural systems and healthy, vibrant communities. Therefore, I commend the work of CEIL in spreading the word and hosting this important gathering.

The government and non-profits are not the only ones with a stake in fostering social awareness. As a for-profit, albeit a modest one, we believe the business community also has a looming responsibility to help vet and reveal the business case for sustainability. We want to make a difference. We want our colleagues and clients positioned to make a difference.

As a society, we must change how we relate to natural systems. Embracing the concepts and value of green infrastructure is gaining a foothold. In my view, it is this foothold, a heightened social awareness, and growing sense of interdependence that is moving us toward a greater call for stewardship. We need to think and act beyond compliance. We are moving toward a tipping point of doing just that.

Sustainably managing our nation’s natural capital is a matter of national security and greening of our urban and rural landscapes can put people to work.

Today, we have brought together a panel of seasoned practitioners from the governance sector, advocacy sector, and business sector to share their perspectives about where we are and where we need to go to continue the course correction onto a sustainable path.

Our first panelist, Chris Kloss joins us from EPA where he serves as Green Infrastructure Coordinator for within the Agency’s Office of Water. Chris is responsible for programs and activities assessing the potential for green infrastructure to be used in environmental protection and compliance programs for EPA.

Our second panelist, Neil Weinstein, is Executive Director of the Low Impact Development Center, a highly respected non-profit that has been a steady voice calling important attention to innovation and best practices that are driving sustainable storm water management strategies and techniques. Much of Neil’s current work focuses on how to use landscape and the built environment to create sustainable infrastructure that protects natural resources, enhances aesthetics, and the quality of life in urban communities.

Our third panelist, Doug Bauer, is Vice President of Pizzo and Associates; a Chicago area based firm specializing in full service ecological restoration consulting including site design, installation, and site stewardship. Pizzo also offers a robust selection of herbaceous native flora at their nursery operations in Leland, IL. Pizzo has a vast amount of experience working complex government and corporate project sites and has received numerous awards for their attention to cost control, plant survivability, and stewardship. They have emerged as an industry leader in calling necessary attention to what works and doesn’t work and matching projects with client needs.

I’d like to welcome and thank our panelists for participating in today’s discussion.

Thank you.

Click here to download a PDF of this panel’s presentations. (18 MB PDF)

A Reflection on the 2011 Annual Water Resources Summit
Donna Ayres
Authored by: Donna Ayres, Senior Advisor, THG

November 10, 2011

The Horinko Group’s Water Division welcomed 116 people from government, business, NGOs, and academia to its Second Annual Water Resources Summit at the University of Maryland on October 25, 2011. Brendan McGinnis, Director of the Water Division, highlighted in his opening remarks the opportunity for all to engage in a continuing informed dialogue about one of our most challenging issues –the security of our common water future. The themes for the all-day event were rooted in collaboration and partnerships, calling attention to the critical importance of cooperation, transparency, inclusiveness, and action.

Three panels of esteemed representatives from government, advocacy groups, and the business sector celebrated success stories and shared lessons learned. They provided abundant examples, ideas, and answers to audience questions about how official and informal organizations are advancing a stewardship ethic related to water. Current and future efforts were examined that seek to produce significant innovations and progress toward a more sustainable water future. In addition, a luncheon keynote speaker introduced a way to view sustainability as doable and affordable.

Jeff Jacobs, a scholar with the National Research Council’s Water Science and Technology Board, led the first panel on Governance to canvass water laws, policies, funding, and decision-making issues relevant to water resources management today and tomorrow. Alex Dunn, Executive Director of the Association of Clean Water Administrators, highlighted the benefits of a watershed approach to bring water resources stakeholders together to initiate a life-cycle approach to water resources management. She provided several examples of effective watershed groups, such as the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association. The federal role in water resources management, she said, should be to provide support, assistance, and partnerships.

Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, added examples of good stewardship and interagency partnerships underway at USDA, especially the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service, across the federal government, and with landowners and land managers that represent the ethic that, “if we take care of the land it will take care of us.” She noted the launching of the new Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Monitoring Framework, a partnership across federal agencies to evaluate and join the effectiveness of conservation measures for targeted watersheds.

Mike Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection’s Office of Water, illustrated EPA’s many partnering efforts, including celebration of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a federal-state partnership for improving water quality. Governance structures, such as the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, are important to integrate watershed-scale efforts among public and private constituencies.

Steve Stockton, Director of Civil Works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, noted how groups such as the Western States Federal Assistance Support Team, co-located with the Western Governors Association, are improving our understanding about federal resource management programs and stimulating collaborative efforts to improve resource management. He noted as well how documents such as the new Civil Works Strategic Plan and the 2000 report on “Responding to National Water Resources Challenges” provide a guidepost for federal interagency initiatives to work with state and local partners in leveraging shared visions and resources to improve resource management. Additionally, the river basin commissions and comprehensive studies can make significant headway in this effort.

The second panel shifted the focus to Advocacy efforts of non-governmental organizations for beneficial water resources outcomes. Dr. Stephen Gasteyer, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University, led the panel, highlighting how America’s history of water advocacy represent attempts to leverage “financial capital,” “built capital,” and “political capital” within his own analytic framework of “Community Capitals.” A regulatory emphasis is giving way today to notions of responsible stewardship through coalitions, holistic approaches, and adaptive management practices.

Patrick McGinnis, The Horinko Group’s Water Resources Team Leader for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Systems, described the many ways in which the Group’s Water Division is bringing people together to facilitate a continuing dialogue about sustainability, stewardship, and collaboration. THG is using social learning tools to join disparate groups and to connect them to ongoing efforts and new opportunities, i.e., connecting water resources decision-makers and practitioners through its salon series, free webinars, newsletter, and other on-line media.

Ben Grumbles, President of the Clean Water America Alliance, described how his organization is working to connect the public and private sectors through an enriched vision for water resources management that shifts the paradigm toward green technologies, expanding the scale of work toward watersheds, and celebrating innovation and initiative of local groups. Dick Engberg, Technical Director of the American Water Resources Association, provided an overview of the four Water Policy Dialogues that he helped AWRA organize to bring attention to critical water resources challenges. He noted that AWRA is collaborating with the Clean Water America Alliance for a webinar series on the emerging water issue of fracking.

Todd Ambs, President of the River Network, emphasized how capacity building of local water groups is contributing to the dialogue and actionable results. The collaborative efforts of governments at all levels with local watershed groups have enriched impacts. Social learning tools are further enhancing individual action, particularly about the energy-water nexus.

The third panel brought the Business of Water into the discussion. Tracy Mehan, Principal with The Cadmus Group, moderated a discussion about how technology sponsored by the private sector is making advances, especially for the benefit of municipal water resources.

Brent Fewell, VP of Environmental Compliance at United Water, noted how leadership in and out of government and public-private partnerships are working to recapitalize water infrastructure. The private sector brings financial resources, technology, and skills to the development and management of community water resources, especially wastewater infrastructure. Regional approaches, more innovation, and private investment are needed, he said.

A toolbox of several tools such as monthly rates, commercial and private activity bonds, State Revolving Funds, and perhaps a new water infrastructure finance and innovation authority to sponsor loans for large projects is what is needed claimed Tom Curtis, Legislative Director of the American Water Works Association.

Jon Freedman, Global Leader for Government Relations at General Electric Power & Water, described how GE seeks out thought leaders to advance water reuse and other technologies, stimulating research and development to make it easier for municipalities/communities to use new water treatment technology. GE strives to lead by example; setting and achieving targeted goals to reduce its own carbon footprint and water consumption.

George Hawkins, General Manager for DC Water, pointed out that it is the passion of professionals on the ground that is making strides, but innovation and technology are needed to increase worker capacity and overcome a crisis orientation. The private sector has much to offer the public sector in educating the public about new and better business practices for conservation and stewardship, he added.

Steven Hoffmann, Founder of WaterTech Capital Corporation, author of “Planet Water: Investing in the World’s Most Valuable Resource,” and consultant to Wall Street, stimulated thinking about how the private sector can promote better water resources management through a new economic model that he referred to as, “Ecological Economics.” It brings sustainability dead center into the equation, and not as an afterthought or add-on variable, but by seeking an optimal scale of impacts and setting deliberate priorities for sustainability based on an environmental ethic, individual responsibility, multi- and interdisciplinary approaches, and integration.

This line of thinking differs from typical models used in the past that are based on “Environmental Economics,” seeking a satisfactory monetary return on investment, while optimizing the allocation of the resource within a mono-disciplinary approach and cause-effect dynamics. “Ecological Economics” is better suited for promoting sustainability, claims Hoffman, and therefore provides a mechanism by which to answer the call for water stewardship.

This year’s Summit wrapped up with The Horinko Group’s Brendan McGinnis providing concluding remarks. In addition to recapping the day’s key messages, he provided an outline for a pathway to effective stewardship, marked by a collaborative spirit, hard work of dedicated professionals, infusion of public and private innovations and technologies, alignment of efforts, big thinking, and sufficient fiscal resources.

The 2011 Summit proceedings, program, presentations, and photo gallery, can now be downloaded at –

From the 2011 Annual Water Resources Summit at the University of Maryland, College Park

Patrick S. McGinnis
As delivered by: Patrick S. McGinnis, Water Resources Team Leader, THG

October 25, 2011

My name is Pat McGinnis. I currently advise The Horinko Group on water resource matters. I came to the group in 2009 after completing a 32-year career with the Corps of Engineers.

I am a Wildlife Biologist by training. I began my career with the Corps as a Regulatory Wetland Specialist but spent the last twenty years as an Operational Project Manager on the Mississippi River serving as a public lands administrator. This experience shaped my outlook regarding collaboration, civic engagement, and the struggles of bringing innovative practices forward in the face of competing interests. I gained a valuable perspective about shaping stakeholder expectations and consensus.

During this time, I also learned a great deal about advocacy…advocacy for the resource and rural landscapes, advocacy for cooperation, and advocacy for measureable results.

Because of this, I believe in the power of the big idea. Ideas that are socially relevant, that can be effectively communicated, ideas that average Americans can make an emotional connection to, and ideas that can be translated into measurable objectives commonly shared and incrementally addressed.

I also believe that collaboration has to be more than just getting along…it has to be about results that are measurable and replicable.

In advocating for greater collaboration one thing I observed repeatedly…for organizations to have success in collaboration, the people sent into the room have to have a collaborative spirit, know how to get things done, and have the courage to address and overcome barriers. Organizations can decide to collaborate, but success is left to the ability and commitment of the people they send into the room. Good intentions aside, these simply aren’t skills that are actively recruited for, mentored, or rewarded.

Our Group is committed to facilitating an informed and inclusive water conversation and fostering a collaborative spirit. Our observations have shown us that too many breakdowns are occurring in the communication between practitioners and decision-makers, that too many in our communities still lack an informed appreciation of our water resources and although many in the water sector are working hard and working together, collaboration across organizations and across natural systems and is still struggling to gain a sustainable foothold.

Our Annual Summits are intended to keep the water conversation going while bringing more attention to the water challenges that confront all of us, particularly those we should have the collective where-with-all to address.

Too many issues are being worked without effective outreach that offers a system context that allows Americans to see and understand where and how all the dots connect and why source protection, system sustaining flows, re-use, and properly valuing and pricing water is not only socially relevant, but in a growing number of locations, extremely urgent.

Our philosophy on outreach is straightforward. Government and non-profits are not the only ones with a stake in building social water awareness. As a for-profit, albeit a modest one, we believe the business community has a responsibility to help build and reveal the business case for sustainability. We have a responsibility to keep the water conversation fresh. We want to make a difference. We want our colleagues and clients positioned to make a difference.

We are continuously working to match up partners and clients with subject matter experts, talented practitioners, and investors eager to test old assumptions and explore innovation and a better path forward.

We work hard at being honest brokers advancing an inclusive dialogue on water…seeking a conversation not constrained by a narrow agenda.

Our commitment to growing the water conversation has been focused in three areas:

First, by planning and hosting an ongoing series of water focused webinars, such as the ones listed this here from our 2011 webinar series, bringing water sector thought leaders and practitioners together to discuss a variety of timely issues. These webinars are very well attended. Our Flood Risk Webinar in May had over 300 registrants.

Secondly, over the last 18 months we have also planned and hosted four important problem-solving salons focused on a number of interconnected water topics, which you can see listed here. The focus of these salons is to bring a diverse group of executives together, present an issue, recast the issue into a problem statement, deconstruct the problem, and identify key actions that arm the group with steps toward a solution. In today’s hectic work environment, these sessions afford executives an opportunity to extract themselves from the day-to-day and focus on a specific challenge.

Next, we use our company website, monthly newsletter, and other forums available to us to call attention to the great works of others, that in our judgment is advancing the water conversation and new approaches to old problems.

Showcasing the work of “pathfinders” that are demonstrating the way ahead is very important. Finding places, communities, where the concentration of positive activity is moving rural and urban landscapes culturally from exploitive water use toward long-term water stewardship, is also important and can power up the expectation for system resiliency while calling attention to the best regional “tipping point” models.
These stories need to be shared.

So…what are we advocating for? This past January we posted a white paper on our website. The paper is entitled, Promoting the Sustainability of Our Nation’s Water Resources, and can be downloaded from our website, and is also included in today’s program.

In our White Paper we call out areas where early action could be taken on a number of fronts to establish some traction for moving beyond a culture of compliance to one of stewardship. We call for regional models of cooperation. For building communities of practice to power-up initiatives into stronger, broader, integrated efforts around shared objectives. Objectives that clarify the need to sufficiently protect the natural capital in aquatic ecosystems and make that an explicit goal of water resource development, management, and governance.

What’s next for our Group? Very simply…to continue the call for stewardship.

We must change how we relate to water. We spend too much time arguing case-by-case compliance and not enough time creating a foundation of long-term stewardship and fostering a new ethic that goes beyond compliance.

We believe that we begin by testing existing authorities and policies before moving on to new institutional arrangements…by rewarding efficiency and re-use, by fostering social learning on how systems function, and by getting serious about realistic water pricing and development of new markets that promote stewardship, not exploitation.

No one has the resources or discretionary time to address sweeping change. Rather, we need to simply begin. We need to take an incremental approach that is flexible, but deliberate. We need to de-mystify adaptive management. We manage programs, but we don’t manage natural systems. Adaptive management is really just effective management. We need to begin to apply the new knowledge and monitoring that reflective management builds into the decision process, and let it begin to inform the water conversation and future re-development. If we aspire to have a shared national vision, then let’s ensure that vision is informed.

There is not enough water or money to compensate for wasteful exploitive practices. The American people need to see an effort that is transparent and inclusive, but also deliberate and actionable that will foster confidence and some sense of predictability about our water future.

Thank you.

From the 2011 Annual Water Resources Summit at the University of Maryland, College Park

Brendan McGinnis
Authored by: Brendan McGinnis, Director, Water Division, THG

October 25, 2011

Opening Remarks

Greetings everyone. My name is Brendan McGinnis and I head up The Horinko Group’s Water Division. I’d like to welcome you to our Second Annual Water Summit entitled, Sustaining Our Nation’s Water Resources – Answering the Call for Stewardship.

Before I provide you all with a quick overview of today’s program, there are few announcements I’d like to make –

First and foremost, a special thank you to this year’s Gold and Silver Summit sponsors. If not for the generosity of these organizations, today’s event would not be possible.

Thank you to our Summit Partners and presenters. We want to express our gratitude for your continued efforts.

Many colleagues from these organizations are participating in today’s program. I encourage you to seek them out during the luncheon and reception, say hello, each of these folks is working hard to make a difference and it’s an honor having them with us today.

This year’s Summit has been recognized as a featured program of UN Month, in recognition of the formation of the United Nations on October 24, 1945. The United Nations Association of the National Capital Area has reached out to number of local organizations to help celebrate this commemorative occasion. We are honored that today’s program is part of the month’s water-related festivities.

I also want to offer a special thank you to our gracious host, the University of Maryland. We are pleased to have a number of faculty and students that will be joining us throughout today’s discussion.

And last, but certainly not least, thank you to each and every individual that chose to participate in today’s dialogue.

We commend your interest in these critical water matters that affect us all.

Looking ahead to today’s program, I’d like to take a step back and quickly reflect on why we are emphasizing stewardship. We believe a focus on stewardship will foster a shift toward a system context for management and governance, providing the rationale to move us from the current compliance culture where we find ourselves in. A sustainable water future for us all rests on an informed and engaged water resources community. Everyone in this room has a shared responsibility to move our society from being simple water users to becoming conscientious and well-informed water stewards.

When appropriately informed, we are confident our communities will be repositioned to make a greater contribution driven by a greater sense of informed concern for actionable problem solving.

So, how de we effectively reach the public? We provide them with the tools they need to understand the complexity of natural systems, and then listen to their input.

Effective public involvement means effective listening. The process of briefing the solution and then taking comments has to give way to an ongoing water conversation.

Diverse approaches need to be available to meet the needs and aspirations of diverse audiences in different regions, sometimes facing unique constraints. Broader representation within affected communities must be a part of this process.

We must all become more effective communicators and find the common sense in all of this.

Be honest, frank and open. People care more about trust, credibility, competence, fairness, and empathy than about statistics, charts, and graphs.

In looking at the structure and flow of today’s program, we broke out three topical areas of focus – governance, advocacy, and the business of water, which shaped our three panels.

Panel one, to begin shortly, is going to focus on governance and how the federal family and their state counterparts can best match authorities to current water challenges.

Panel two will examine the role advocacy must play in producing an informed and interested citizenry around water.

The final panel will center on the business of water, providing a closer look at private-public partnerships, a new paradigm for compliance, making the case for water re-use, and a great deal more.

For those of you attending today’s luncheon, you will enjoy hearing from our keynote, Steve Hoffmann. If you have not yet read his book, Planet Water: Investing in the World’s Most Valuable Resource, I highly recommend it. It is a terrific read.

Finally, I hope each of you find today’s program fresh and informative.

Closing Remarks

As this concludes the formal portion of our program, I hope this dialogue will help to advance our joint efforts by shedding additional light on the critical areas – governance, advocacy, and the business of water.

Briefly reflecting on the insights shared today and some of the key take-aways that I gathered –

I believe it’s no secret to any of us that gross deficits and ever-shrinking budgets are contributing to a growing urgency for sensible, cost-effective solutions to address our most pressing water and energy challenges.

Better leveraging of resources and broader engagement can be realized through more effective collaboration and creating an inclusive platform to educate and engage all stakeholders.

Collaboration and interdependence have become crucial.

And, at the heart of it all, each of us must take an active role in securing our common water future. It’s in our hands. Let’s all become more informed and hand’s on.

Before I conclude, I want to offer a very sincere thank you to our partners, panelists, moderators, and luncheon speaker. Your efforts and commitment are testament that perhaps we are arriving at a tipping point where some collective resolve for innovation can drive real traction. Perhaps these complex water problems are not beyond our collective reach to address.

Thank you.

Chris Cheatham
Authored by: Chris Cheatham, Managing Partner, Cheatham Consulting, LLC.

October 13, 2011

It is not looking pretty for federal green building policy.
Earlier in the year, I speculated that Congress might target green building certification as an unnecessary cost. Well, it happened. From the ASHRAE Government Affairs Update:

House Passes National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 – Would Require Cost-Benefit Analysis & Long-Term Payback for DoD Adopting ASHRAE Standard 189.1


The U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R. 1540) by a vote of 322-96. . . .

The bill would also require a cost-benefit analysis and return on investment for energy efficiency attributes and sustainable design achieved through DoD funds used to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold or Platinum certification.

But here’s the real kicker in the legislation:

The bill would prohibit FY 2012 DoD funds from being used to achieve a LEED Gold or Platinum certification, however these certifications could be obtained if they impose no additional cost to DoD.

As I understand it, LEED certification will always impose an additional cost on the DoD simply because administration fees have to be paid to the US Green Building Council in order to get the certification. It appears that this legislation, if passed in this form, would bar the DoD from pursuing LEED certification.

According the ASHRAE update, the Senate will propose its own bill. It will be interesting to see how the LEED certification funding issue is dealt with in the Senate and in conference committee.

I have often wondered why federal buildings should pursue LEED certification. I always viewed certification as a marketing tool to demonstrate that a building was green. But a green building policy wonk recently made an interesting point to me: by pursuing LEED certification, the federal government receives third-party confirmation that it is getting the green building it contracted for.

Is this the beginning of the end for federal policy that supports LEED? Should federal buildings pursue LEED certification in the first place?

Brendan McGinnis
Authored by: Brendan McGinnis, Director, Water Division, THG

August 8, 2011

If the government’s debt ceiling crisis has taught us anything, it is that uncertainty is bad for business. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples reiterated at a recent Congressional committee hearing on EPA’s greenhouse gas and Clean Air Act regulations, “the market can stand good news, and it can stand bad news, but it cannot stand uncertainty.” Our market economy tends to be risk averse and uncertainty is unsettling. In the regulatory world, such uncertainty breeds inefficiency and controversy.

At The Horinko Group, we have always promoted making the business case for sustainability. But as it stands today, the uncertainty we are encountering in Clean Water Act regulation is simply not sustainable. Not for business, not for the regulatory community, and not for the environment. What triggered this uncertainty?

Many would argue, the brief answer lies in the U.S. Supreme Court opinions in two decisive cases, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U. S. 159 (2001) and Rapanos v. United States, 547 U. S. 715, 126 S.Ct. 2208 (2006). For the 30 years prior to these case decisions, the extent of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act was reasonably certain. It included waters that were traditionally navigable, plus interstate waters, and waters that were wholly intrastate, and whether degradation could affect interstate or foreign commerce. It also included waters used in a commercial industry, such as fishing. So, it was a pretty broad definition.

SWANCC, as the 2001 case came to be known, and Rapanos, threw this state of certainty into disarray. Both cases were decided by a deeply divided court, with the latter case providing a plurality decision with no clear majority. The decisions left regulators, practitioners, and virtually anyone trying to navigate the waters, literally and figuratively, scratching their heads.

This uncertainty has prevailed now for nearly five years. There is no predictability regarding permitting, enforcement, and monitoring. There is really only one aspect that has become more certain – the probability of costly litigation and project delays. Ultimately, this confounds the efforts by business and industry to effectively plan and attract capital for prospective projects. From the standpoint of a concerned citizenry, there is waning confidence that regulators can protect the values, tangible and intangible, of clean water at some consistent, predictable level. Within the regulatory community, public servants are spending way too much time and resources litigating or avoiding litigation.

So, where do we go from here? Well, let’s start with the obvious. We are in desperate need of a more efficient and effective way to protect what is rapidly becoming our nation’s most valuable, and increasingly scarce asset – clean water. The status quo is not sustainable. For the good of our communities and our economy, the proposed guidance needs to be hammered out and finalized.

As contributed to the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Jennifer Frazier
Authored by: Jennifer Frazier, Director, Mississippi River Program, American Land Conservancy

May 27, 2011

The historic Mississippi River flood of 2011 is still rolling south, leaving untold private tragedies and colossal economic damage in its expansive wake. The final cost is not yet known, but previous floods on the Mississippi that made the record books, such as the one in 1993, cost as much as $15 billion. Those recovery costs do not include the billions taxpayers spend to maintain an extensive network of federal levees, floodwalls and other river-control systems that were designed to save lives and property, but which also destroy wildlife habitat and contribute to catastrophic floods like the one this year.

We cannot afford to keep doing it this way. It’s time to spend our money wisely and invest in a sustainable river system that meets the needs of communities, industry and the environment.

The natural floodplain of the middle Mississippi River (from St. Louis to Cairo, Ill.) spans about 550,000 acres, but 355,000 of those acres (65 percent) are now behind levees. Controversial as it was, the decision to breach the Bird Point Levee in Missouri proved that giving 130,000 acres back to the floodplain significantly reduces upstream flooding and relieves pressure on downstream infrastructure. It came at a high cost, but the floodway worked as intended, mimicking a natural floodplain by adding flood storage capacity.

But the river is not just an elaborate plumbing system. The Mississippi Flyway is used by 60 percent of North America’s migratory birds, and the river corridor is home to numerous threatened and endangered species. A better way to reduce the impact of flooding while also protecting vital habitat is to selectively reconnect frequently flooded areas to the river and restore those areas to a more natural state.

Those efforts are already under way. For example, the American Land Conservancy has been returning land to the floodplain along the Mississippi since the flood of 1993. Many of those acres are underwater now, and we will not have to pay to mitigate them this time around. When not underwater, those acres also provide vital habitat, absorb carbon, lessen runoff, improve water quality, reduce hypoxic areas in the Gulf of Mexico (those with dangerously low concentrations of oxygen) and provide outdoor recreation opportunities.

But the stark reality is that significantly more acres need to be converted if we are to have a meaningful impact on catastrophic flooding.

And we must. Floods are becoming more frequent, more severe and more costly. Across the vast expanse of watersheds feeding the Mississippi — 1.25 million square miles over 31 states — the amount of “very heavy precipitation” has increased over the past 50 years, in some areas by as much as 67 percent. Runoff has also increased, as all that rain and snow is falling on a lot more pavement and buildings than it used to. As a result, hundred-year floods occur every few years. Two five-hundred year floods have occurred in the Mississippi watershed just in the last five years — in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2008 and Nashville in 2010. We can no more send the rain and snow back into the clouds than we can push the water back into the river banks. The floods will keep coming.

We now understand that the ability of the Mississippi floodplain to absorb, store and slow floodwaters was severely compromised over the last century when the wetlands, lakes, forests and vegetation along its banks were removed for agriculture and the extensive system of levees was constructed. Today those levees protect vital communities and some of the nation’s most productive cropland. They also facilitate the movement of hundreds of millions of tons of commodities on the river each year. The good news is we do not have to lose those benefits if we make the river more sustainable.

Floodplain restoration plans have existed for decades. It’s time to ramp up those plans with the funding and attention they have long deserved. We already pay for rebuilding and recovery. Why not also invest in resilience?

This flood is not over and people are still hurting. Our hearts go out to those in harm’s way, and we commend everyone who has worked to protect lives and property. But after we help those in need, our immediate task is to ensure that this time we get it right. A sustainable river is not just possible, it’s essential.

Dick Engberg
Authored by: Dick Engberg, Technical Director, American Water Resources Association

May 9, 2011

Certainly climate change is one of the hot button issues of our time. Recognizing this, the American Water Resources Association’s (AWRA) Spring Specialty Conference addressed climate change, but in a different way than other conferences on the subject. Many conferences have attempted to determine whether climate change is part of a natural cycle, whether it is occurring as a result of increased carbon dioxide emissions, or whether it is a combination of the natural cycle and the emissions.

The AWRA Conference held in Baltimore, MD, April 18-20, 2011, began with the premise that climate change, whatever its cause, is real, and because it is real, its impacts on water resources must be anticipated and managed in order to minimize their potential impacts on America’s population and economy. Therefore, the focus of this conference was on adaption issues, options, and strategies to manage climate change impacts on water resources.

Following opening remarks by AWRA President, Michael E. Campana, the conference plenary session was keynoted by Steven L. Stockton, Director of Civil Works of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the federal agencies responsible for managing climate change impacts on water resources. Mr. Stockton described not only the multiple challenges that his agency faces but also detailed some of the work underway to mitigate the affects of sea level changes on Corps facilities.

Following Mr. Stockton, a Plenary Panel moderated by Gerald E. Galloway of the University of Maryland included federal, state, local and industry representatives who gave their perspectives on adaptation and strategies either in planning stages or actually underway. For example, strategies have been developed using decision analysis frameworks to address sea level rise and to address effects of changes in precipitation patterns and increased temperatures on water resources, human health, agriculture, existing infrastructure, and ecosystems.

Thirty-four technical sessions comprised the final 2.5 days of the conference. These sessions included 95 individual presentations and two panel discussions. One interesting presentation on the topic “Sea Level and Coastal” dealt with pulsed reservoir releases to mitigate salinity intrusion. A case study from Alexandria, Virginia dealt with storm sewer infrastructure planning with climate change risk.

Several presentations included the use of models to predict a variety of time-related climate change scenarios including sustainability of water demands. The water-energy nexus came under discussion in talks related to hydroelectric operations and planning for the uncertainty related to climate change. Integrated water resources management and adaptive management were cited by many presenters as extremely important in the light of the unpredictability of climate change impacts. Finally, agricultural, urban and industrial water demand in times of climatic change and preparation for climate extremes were discussed and scenarios presented. The need to involve stakeholders in participatory decision-support processes was stressed by several speakers.

Conference attendees were treated to a presentation by Jamie Workman, a Reporter and Consultant from San Francisco, and author of “Heart of Dryness.” He spoke about his several years of working with Kalahari Desert bushmen to adapt to water scarcity and climate change, and, based on what he had learned from the bushmen, developing incentive-driven strategies including water trading and energy credits.

Two hundred twenty-three attendees came away from the conference with enhanced understandings of decision making during times of greater uncertainty, and the need for developing highly flexible and robust adaptive management strategies that will respond quickly and efficiently to the inevitable climate change faced by the United States and worldwide.

Dick Engberg is Technical Director of the American Water Resources Association, Middleburg, VA. He is a hydrologist with more than 45 years of experience including 26 years with the U. S. Geological Survey, and 10 years as Manager of the National Irrigation Water Quality Program of the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Friends of the Earth: Middle East
Authored by: FoEME Leadership – Gidon Bromberg (Israeli Director), Nader Khateb (Palestinian Director), and Munqeth Mehyar (Chairperson and Jordanian Director)

April 11, 2011

In January of this year, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and Water Resources and Action Project (WRAP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding expressing the desire for ongoing collaboration between the two organizations. As a result of this memo, the two organizations will work together to improve water usage practices and access to potable water in East Jerusalem and Palestine.

FoEME is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Its primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect shared environmental heritage. In so doing, it seeks to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in the region. FoEME has offices in Amman, Bethlehem, and Tel-Aviv, and is a member of Friends of the Earth International, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the world.

Originally founded as “EcoPeace” on December 7, 1994 at an historic meeting held in Taba, Egypt, FoEME came about as environmental non-governmental organizations from the Middle East met with the common goal of furthering sustainable development and peace in the region. For the first time ever, Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists agreed to join forces in an effort to promote the integration of environmental considerations into the regional development agenda.

FoEME”s three co-Directors were honored by TIME Magazine as Environmental Heroes of 2008. FoEME received a UNDP/UNEP SEED Finalist Award in 2008 and in 2009 was granted the prestigious Jeff Skoll Award for social entrepreneurship. In addition, the April 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine features the work of FoEME concerning the rehabilitation of the lower River Jordan. FoEME also recently received the first Onassis Prize for the Protection of the Environment and the EURO-MED AWARD FOR DIALOGUE within the theme “Intercultural Dialogue for Ecological Sustainability.”

The vision created by the organization is that we are neighbors sharing the same resource that physically crosses our respective communities, with the actions of one impacting the other and the state of water systems and habitats as a whole. The people and wildlife of our region are dependent on many of the same natural resources. Shared surface and sub-surface freshwater basins, shared seas, common flora and fauna species and a shared air-shed, are some of the characteristics that necessitate regional cooperation. Examples include the Jordan River Basin, a major source of freshwater in a water scarce region, the Gulf of Aqaba, a highly sensitive eco-system giving life to arguably the world”s most beautiful coral reef, and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and the world”s saltiest non-shallow body of water. These are all examples of unique shared eco-systems in the region that necessitate regional cooperation if they are to be preserved.

By promoting this vision, we are developing the understanding that on water and environmental issues we are in the same boat together and that we are dependant on each other for mutual long-term success. FoEME promotes this vision and understanding through joint advocacy and within its projects in the different communities, with the Amman office leading the required change in Jordan, the Bethlehem office in Palestine and the Tel-Aviv office in Israel. While the same vision is espoused in all three countries, it is tailored to the appropriate cultural context in each country.

Our projects can be categorized according to the following themes:

Geographical Context – The Dead Sea Rift Valley runs from the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat, in the south, along the Arava Valley, through the Dead Sea, up the Jordan River into the Sea of Galilee and beyond, connecting the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of our projects are located along this shared, complex ecosystem.

Socio-Economic Based Projects – Focus on issues such as sustainable water use, water privatization, trade, sustainable development, water as a human security issue, developing renewable energy and healthy food practices.

Climate Change – Stands on its own, as being one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet today, especially to our scarce water resources.

All of FoEME”s transboundary projects include Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian youth, adults, mayors and municipal representatives in community work, as well as Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian scientists, researchers, and other experts in research based work, all working together to foster platforms for dialogue to promote environmental sustainability and peace.

Major projects and research are being undertaken by FoEME, focusing on the issues of shared water crisis of Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians. Through the development and implementation of numerous projects and scientific research initiatives, EcoPeace/FoEME has successfully demonstrated the willingness of peoples to work together to protect and rehabilitate their natural environments upon which their livelihoods depend. The integration of the top-down advocacy approach coupled with the bottom-up community approach has proven to be an effective organizational strategy that creates a platform for dialogue for peace and coexistence seeing successful initiation and implementation of cross border environmental projects. The following paragraphs outline the major initiatives that are being undertaken by FoEME.

  • The “Good Water Neighbors” (GWN) project was established by EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East in 2001 to raise awareness of the shared water problems of Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis. The GWN methodology is their original idea that is based on identifying cross-border communities and utilizing their mutual dependence on shared water resources as a basis for developing dialogue and cooperation on sustainable water management. GWN has created real improvement within the water sector by developing awareness on water and sanitation issues, building trust and understanding that has led to common problem solving and peace building among communities – even in the midst of conflict. Five sets of “partnering mayors” have signed on Memorandums of Understandings focusing on a specific water issue that is negatively affecting both communities, promoting their jointly identified solutions, such as; waste water treatment networks, peace parks, better agricultural practices/wise water use, and more.
  • Equitable water allocation between Palestinians and Israelis is an especially important issue for FoEME; as they are the only regional environmental organization in the Middle East that can tackle this issue with an excellent knowledge base, trust of both sides, and effectiveness in cooperation. FoEME has most recently offered a “Model Water Agreement” that is based on a dynamic agreement between the sides, and suggests an alternative to the “temporary agreement” in effect since 1995 that has failed to preserve shared water resources, especially the Mountain Aquifer, allowing for over pumping by Israel, pollution of groundwater and surface water originating in the West Bank and continuing into Israel, and the unfair allocation of shared water resources.
  • A component of the GWN project is the creation of “Neighbors Paths.” The purpose of the “Neighbors Paths” is to show the natural and cultural heritage of each one of the 28 “Good Water Neighbor” communities and to learn about their water resources both in the past and in the present. Many trails highlight the rich history found in the region but also reveal degradation and pollution, often ‘not seen’ by local residents themselves and certainly not usually shown to tourists. All community-based tours deal with the issue of the interdependence of the water sources between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian neighboring communities. The concept of the Neighbors” Paths has been designed to achieve a synergetic effect of education, change in people”s attitudes and ultimately of sustainable development.
  • FoEME recently launched a new component to the Good Water Neighbors project, called “Community Geographic Information System” (CGIS). CGIS is a joint Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian educational initiative. As with most of FoEME`s projects, the CGIS revolves around shared water issues. Its purpose is to give high school students the ability to identify environmental hazards in their local area. The novelty of this project is the introduction of advanced GIS technology for the purpose of creating environmental hazard maps. These maps deal with water contamination issues and are constructed by the participating GWN communities, which seek to advance cross border understanding and cooperation over shared water issues. The community”s involvement in creating GIS maps is one more step in raising local awareness about the state of the environment in general and water issues in particular.
  • FoEME has recently concluded an independent socio-economic and environmental assessment of the proposed Red Sea/Dead Sea canal project. Partners in research included the Geological Survey of Israel, that studied the environmental impacts on the Arava Valley and the Dead Sea; the Royal Scientific Society (Jordan) that studied the environmental impacts on the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat; and the Water and Environment Development Organization (Palestinian NGO) that together with the Royal Scientific Society studied the socio-economic effects of the proposed canal. This research places FoEME in the unique position as a well-informed stakeholder on the issue, giving a strong basis on which to found an opinion and launch a campaign.
  • FoEME has undertaken scientific research projects detailing the geographical characteristics of the most important underground water source in the region – the Mountain Aquifer. FoEME first identified the major sources of pollution – sewage and solid waste. The reports describe the different solutions that have been proposed and the factors that prevent the implementation of sewage solutions or solid waste disposal facilities, as well as drawing conclusions and recommendations to protect the Mountain Aquifer. In an additional pilot project, FoEME produced “Municipal Guidelines” to help municipalities alleviate groundwater pollution of the Mountain Aquifer.
  • FoEME researched the projections that are being made for climate change and its impacts on the water resources in a selection of Middle Eastern countries and territory; Egypt, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, along with adjacent river basin countries. The study focuses on the anticipated impact this will have on our water resources and how this will affect human societies and economies, as well as the ramifications that this is likely to have on human security and political stability within this already volatile region.
  • The Jordan River Rehabilitation Project includes multiple studies undertaken by FoEME to raise awareness of the plight of this endangered River, to strengthen the knowledge base, and to enable political decision-makers in Israel, Jordan and Palestine to act to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River. Their first study, “Crossing the Jordan,” aimed to bring to the public”s awareness the challenges and threats facing the River; their “Environmental Flows” study answers the question – how much water is required to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River? Likewise, their “Economic Study” answers the question – from where and at what price can Israel, Jordan and Palestine allocate water to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River? Uniquely, each of these studies is undertaken tri-laterally with Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian experts working together. And an additional study, undertaken separately in each riparian country, reviews the key political barriers that must be overcome to enable water reform.
  • The Sharhabil bin Hassneh Eco Park is embedded in EcoPeace/FoEME’s larger program of rehabilitating the Jordan River Valley, with the goal to establish a model for preserving ecologically important habitats within the Jordan Valley. The EcoPark serves to increase public awareness about the natural importance of the area and promoting sustainable development efforts in the river basin.
  • The Jordan Valley Environmental Education Centre in Auja (“the Environmental Centre”) is another demonstration of FoEME’s commitment to advancing environmental education and sustainability in the Middle East. The Environment Centre includes outdoor educational groves and an ecotourism guesthouse. The Environmental Center plays an important role in helping alleviate the impact of water scarcity and environmental degradation on Palestinian communities through education about environmental and water realities and widespread dissemination of conservation measures. The Environmental Center also contributes to poverty alleviation in vulnerable communities through increasing capacity for sustainable, urban agriculture as well as for local provision of ecotourism services through the Environmental Center Guesthouse.

FoEME”s work with WRAP will compliment the organizations” multilevel approach and ongoing projects. Through its Good Water Neighbors program, FoEME has been working with students and teachers to install water saving devices, including rainwater collection units in communities throughout Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. In addition, the eco-friendly parks established by FoEME incorporate principles of water conservation in their planning and implementation. WRAP”s board is made up of individuals with a wide range of relevant expertise including water usage management, corporate sustainability and cross-cultural communication in the Middle East. The combined experiences of the two organizations will contribute to this collaborative endeavor.

The organizations will begin by installing rainwater collections units in East Jerusalem and Palestine. The first project of this kind will be conducted at the Sur Bahr Girls School in East Jerusalem. Following FoEME”s multilevel approach, the rainwater collection system will also be used as a teaching tool as students and teachers will be incorporated in the design and construction of the unit, and water usage curriculum related to the project will be given to teachers. At the same time, the project will help to bring attention to the need for improved water allocation and usage practices in the West Bank and highlight the benefits of international cooperation and expertise sharing to sustainable global development. FoEME looks forward to working with WRAP and hopes this exciting project will be one of many.