Water has been an increasingly contentious issue on a global scale for the past few decades. In the U.S. alone, clean drinking water, coastal disasters, rivershed flooding, and an emerging “megadrought” have struck far and wide across the country. However, a common thread to policy solutions in this arena is the reactionary nature of solutions that ends up costing taxpayers more than if proactive programs had been enacted in the first place. For example, it was only after the lead contamination crises in Flint and other U.S. cities that federal legislation was ramped up to address drinking water via the EPA and revolving fund programs. Similarly, the National Flood Insurance Program has been expanded, and FEMA and other emergency funding has been expended to rebuild areas which were not designed to withstand the recent increase in hurricane frequency and severity, as well as other storms producing immense rainfall. In the meantime, USDA crop insurance and Farm Bill subsidies continue to support agriculture in drought-prone areas that are experiencing diminishing returns and environmental degradation, as opposed to investing in proven solutions for more effective and sustainable water and land use management.
The Center for Social Solutions seeks a more comprehensive, technologically-sound solution that has the backing of engineering, political, and environmental communities. This type of collaborative network will better explore innovative designs to classic solutions such as pipelines, aqueducts, canals, and other modes of transport that seek to assist both flood- and drought-prone communities in the same breath, before either situation becomes dire. These multifaceted partnerships will also enable CSS to engage with scientific, nature-based solutions to both flooding and drought, and aggregate a myriad of cutting-edge proofs of concept (e.g. porosity in pavement, real-time digital water table monitoring) being generated by institutions around the world. We ultimately hope to pilot a durable, interdisciplinary solution to regional-scale water movement that both mitigates natural disaster effects where water is concerned, and save taxpayer dollars in the long run by improving community resilience to disasters altogether.