Ensure Sustainable Use of Water Resources


Reduce nutrient and pathogen loads to basin waters, reduce flow alterations, and improve river, coastal, and lake water quality by launching, packaging, and driving adoption of innovative, technology-enabled solutions to increase the sustainability of the use, delivery, and treatment of basin water resources.


The governors have identified a priority to “ensure the sustainable use of our water resources while confirming that the states retain authority over water use and diversions of Great Lakes waters.” Federal support for this priority has generally not been made available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The states, provinces, and the federal government have made excellent progress to ensure state control over water use and diversion decisions through the adoption of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (prohibiting out-of-basin diversions of Great Lakes water by requiring that any water used outside of the basin is returned).

Other progress, however, has been more limited. Water infrastructure remains underfunded. Larger and more frequent storms require not only new investment, but also new ways of thinking about how we manage precipitation. New contaminants are found, and affordable ways to manage them remain elusive. If we can better control how water moves across and through the landscape, we will see benefits not only to our neighborhoods, but we can help solve nutrient pollution, sedimentation, pathogen contamination of beaches, and improve biological conditions in receiving waters.

The Great Lakes Commission estimates that identified needs in the region’s drinking water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management infrastructure exceeds $178 billion. These estimates are likely low as they are incomplete and derived from engineering estimates that rely on outdated assumptions about precipitation. Investment in this infrastructure is necessary to improve the health of, or protect high quality, coastal ecosystems; restore the health of the basin’s rivers, harbors, and lake waters; safeguard the health of basin residents, and promote sustainable uses of the basin’s waters. We seek to reduce the costs of the basin’s water infrastructure and improve its effectiveness.

Prior Fund-supported work, expert advice, and a growing body of literature show that the use of information technology-power control systems can vastly reduce the capital expenditure needed to meet established water quality or regulatory objectives. These same approaches have been shown to drive other important ecological benefits at no additional cost.

Sustainable Use of Water Resources Actions

  • Engage a set of expert advisors including municipal and utility leaders, civil and electrical engineers, technologists, consulting engineers, and others to identify specific opportunities; create measures of success; and shape programming.
  • Launch a series of demonstration efforts to test, validate, and package strategies for “smart” infrastructure management. Emphasize actions that solve water quality problems, prevent degradation of high quality waters, repurpose existing infrastructure and/or minimize the need for expanded grey infrastructure, integrate natural solutions with built infrastructure, apply IOT sensors/machine-learning/controls, attack basin wide problems, significantly decrease capital costs, and involve teams that will work with other supported efforts to maximize learning, impact, and scalability.
  • Support a growing community of practice involving supported teams, the Green Infrastructure Exchange, the Great Lake St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Urban Sustainability Network, and the growing water innovation ecosystem (including the Water Council, Current, Cleveland Water Alliance, Water Rising, XPV Capital, Impact Engine, S2G Ventures) in the basin. Work with partners to drive adoption, commercialization, and expanded/new markets for these strategies. Use smaller, targeted investment to follow-up on the initial successes of supported efforts.
  • Evaluate the success and early impact of this work.

We are always looking for project teams that are willing to try something transformational, engage people who have never likely teamed up before, and build solutions that make better sense to everyone.

If you want to explore an idea or discuss a potential project, please don’t wait for an rfp to contact us. Email us at startaconversation@glpf.org. We encourage you to start with a conversation, even before you think about submitting anything to us.