Reporting

July 25, 2014 by John Guenther

California businesses ally to ensure robust water policy


Tuolumne River in Yosemite, CA. (Photo Credit: Don J. Schulte/Flickr)

If you're looking for a high-profile manufacturer that for sure depends on water, New Belgium Brewing seems like a good one to highlight. As they say on the advocacy page, "You can't make great beer without clean water."

And that sounds like a pretty good reason for the brewery to become a founding member of the Blue Business Council, a network of businesses that officially launched recently as a partnership with California Coastkeeper Alliance and local Waterkeeper organizations. For the members, encouraging policies that tackle drought and water pollution in the state's watersheds and ocean waters represents just plain good economics.

"As the drought underscores, the management of our water resources is not purely an 'environmental' issue," said Sara Aminzadeh, executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance. "The availability and quality of California’s water affects every person and business in California. Businesses have a responsibility to use their resources, innovation and networks to work towards a more secure water future. We are partnering with businesses who are doing just that."

It's an important reminder that water infrastructure in California is important not just to the $44 billion agriculture industry but also the $106-billion tourism industry. And the timing couldn't be better, with 35 percent of Californians surveyed by the Public Policy Institute of California saying water supply or drought is the now most important environmental issue the state faces.

The potential impact to the California economy means good water policy is not just about keeping the water clean, but encouraging water projects and policies that combat many problems in California's water puzzle, like conservation, stormwater issues, and sustainability.

The first members of the Council range from New Belgium, which is Colorado-based but relies heavily on the California beer drinker, to California companies that certainly benefit from tourism dollars and clean water here, like Patagonia, Santa Barbara Adventure Company, Channel Island Outfitters, Humboldt Bay Oyster & Tourism, Hotel Healdsburg, and h2hotel.

An example of innovative water projects that look downstream is Patagonia's renovation designed to control stormwater runoff from their Ventura headquarters' parking lot.

The other founding Council members are: Clif Bar, Pura Vida Bracelets, Poseidon Vineyard, Pro SUP Shop, REI, Sunski Sunglasses, and Shelter Co.

“As an outdoor business with our headquarters in coastal California for 40 years, we care deeply about protecting and cleaning-up our waterways to ensure that they are swimmable, fishable, and drinkable," said Hans Cole, environmental campaigns and advocacy manager at Patagonia. "The Blue Business Council brings a strong new voice on this front, and we support California Coastkeeper Alliance’s efforts to engage this group of like-minded citizens and businesses in action and advocacy.”

With legislators set to start back up the water bond debate, the Council and other advocates like it will be looking for water policies that create multiple benefits and projects that encourage sustainability, not just protecting water for a handful of interests.

"Integrated projects that prioritize sustainable water supplies, starting with water conservation, stormwater capture, and water recycling, are an easy business decision by any calculation, as they cost less, conserve energy, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, improve water quality, and deliver benefits more rapidly than other water strategies," said Aminzadeh.

Water infrastructure is another key priority for the Summit's Infrastructure Action Team, which sent a letter to the Governor and legislators earlier this year, providing leaders with a framework for taking immediate action to support struggling California communities—while also ensuring California can meet its water needs in the decades to come.

And that seems like a worthy goal for fans of good beer and all the other ways the California economy benefits from a robust and clean water infrastructure. 

Categories: Infrastructure, Water

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