white house senior director for water to headline water leaders summit

By Dean Amhaus, President & CEO

As we planned this year’s virtual Water Leaders Summit, we knew one thing for sure: We wanted to hear from a member of President Joe Biden’s administration.

After all, the summit – held virtually this year July 20-22 and 27-29 – is an annual gathering of some of the top water thought leaders from around the world discussing issues of technology, innovation, stewardship and sustainability. We have known the importance of those topics for a long time, but they are finally catching fire with the general public.

President Biden has driven many of those discussions. Biden ran on an ambitious platform of climate change action. He has called for hundreds of billions of dollars in clean water and drinking water investments. Set that against congressional maneuvering, record-setting drought on the West Coast, and greater prioritization of health and sustainability in the wake of the pandemic, and you have the makings of some fascinating conversations.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce we will host Sara Gonzalez-Rothi, the first-ever senior director for water on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ advises the President on climate change and coordinates the federal government’s efforts to improve, preserve and protect America’s environment. Our event moderator, journalist Charles Fishman, will ask Gonzalez-Rothi about the Biden administration’s plans for climate change and infrastructure and where water fits into the puzzle. You can catch that conversation, and follow-up from a panel of sustainability experts, on July 27.

Sara Gonzalez-Rothi

But don’t stop there. The Water Leaders Summit, presented by A. O. Smith and Baird, includes six moderated conversations, spread out over two weeks, on a variety of water topics. Registration gets you access to all six sessions, and we offer a discount for students and members of The Water Council. The sessions are listed below. We look forward to “seeing” you at the summit!

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July 20: Preserving Paradise as the Water Rises

As deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Highways Division, Ed Sniffen is responsible for 2,500 lane miles of highway and 741 bridges across six Hawaiian Islands. But rising sea levels threaten all of that, with hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate and infrastructure at stake. Instead of waiting for the water to rise, Ed is making plans now to help Hawaii increase its resilience, keep the roads open and preserve its slice of paradise.

July 21: At the Intersection of Water & Roads

Roads and water are deeply intertwined, from the water required to create roads to the stormwater running off them when it rains. Hear from three experts – Susanne DesRoches, deputy director for infrastructure and energy at the New York City Office of Climate Resiliency and Office of Climate and Sustainability; Aimee Flannery, program analyst for the U.S. Department of Transportation; and Johnny Olson, Colorado director of transportation and operations for Horrocks Engineers and president of Move Colorado – about what we should keep in mind as the nation discusses some of the largest infrastructure packages in history, with water and roads intersecting at the center.

July 22: Understanding ESG

Today’s session is brought to you by the letters E (environment), S (social), and G (governance) and the number $51 billion. That’s how much net new money was invested in ESG funds last year. But what does ESG really mean, how is it measured and where does water stewardship fit in? We’ll talk to two experts – Julie Gorte, senior vice president for sustainable investing at Impax Asset Management, and Pat Ackerman, senior vice president for corporate responsibility and sustainability at A. O. Smith – about the ESG landscape, recent steps toward ESG regulation and what it all means for companies large and small.

July 27: Water’s Role in the Biden Administration

Sara Gonzalez-Rothi made history as the White House’s first adviser focused solely on water, serving as senior director for water on the Council on Environmental Quality, which advises the President on climate change and coordinates the federal government’s efforts to improve, preserve and protect America’s environment. She’ll tell us where water stewardship and water technology fit into the administration’s plans as the U.S. gets serious about climate change. Afterward, Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab’s senior vice president for corporate responsibility, and Claudia Toussaint, chief sustainability officer at Xylem, will offer their response from a sustainable business perspective.

July 28: Lessons from Texas

The world watched, stunned, as a historic snowstorm knocked out power and water for millions of Texans for days or even weeks. Carol Haddock, director of Houston Public Works, and Steve Clouse, COO of the San Antonio Water System, walk us through those harrowing days and discuss what they learned and what needs to be done to prepare for more extreme weather events caused by climate change.

July 29: Healthy Buildings, Healthy People

Although the worst of the pandemic appears to be over, we’re finding there is no “getting back to normal,” especially when it comes to the workplace. Workers are demanding employers take their needs into consideration, including health and safety in the workplace, and consumers are demanding companies prioritize sustainability. Water technology and stewardship have a role to play on both sides. Matt Howard, The Water Council’s vice president of water stewardship and director of the Alliance for Water Stewardship North America, talks to Rodolfo Perez of the International WELL Building Institute and Patrick Boyle, director of corporate sustainability at Sloan Valve Company, about making buildings healthy in a post-pandemic world.