World Water Day 2020: Ingenuity, Adaptation And Resilience

This year’s World Water Day observation in the midst of a global public health crisis has me thinking deeply about water’s future in a changing world. Water is front and center in our battle against the coronavirus, as it’s essential to preventative home hand washing routines, and to maintaining the well being of hospital and health-care workers fighting to save lives. As a result, many states and localities have moved to halt residential water shutoffs in the wake of the pandemic. The EPA has affirmed that the safety of our water supplies and treatment facilities are not being compromised by the coronavirus, a rare piece of good news about this new contagious disease.

Once this pandemic has passed, water will also play an important role in our collective economic recovery. The service economy, including utilities, will be dramatically reshaped by this sharp shift in consumption patterns. A recent report by the Brookings Institution examined the industries and metros that will be hardest hit by this downturn and predicts that the most resilient economies will be those anchored by technology and manufacturing: the foundation of innovation.

With that future in mind, our most important efforts—beyond our shared collective priority to support front line health and human services workers—must be aimed in this direction. We are fortunate that Illinois has so many of the building blocks in place to fuel a next wave of discovery, development, and deployment of water technologies that will meet the changing needs of a world in recovery: university researchers, entrepreneurs and investors, industry. In this moment, all of them will need radical adaptation and ingenuity to carry on the collaboration and invention we need to propel our blue economy forward.

As a startup organization, agile adaptation is Current’s status quo. Our postponed Blue Economy event will be rescheduled with our stellar lineup of speakers, including our keynote, Seth Siegel, later this fall. We hope to make this event an anchor of an expanded Chicago Water Week with many of our partners. Our remote team is hard at work adapting our 2020 meetings, roundtables, and convenings to virtual formats. Demand for sharing good ideas and connecting with other problem solvers is only going to rise. Please reach out to George Brigandi ( if your organization would like to collaborate on a workshop or roundtable.

With the statewide move to shelter in place, sampling and calibration for H2NOW Chicago unfortunately must pause. Our team and partners are still working towards the public launch of the near real-time data this summer. If you’d like to get involved, you can make a real difference in three minutes by taking and sharing our Chicago River survey. And as always, if you would like to support our overall efforts, you can donate via the below button.

Our team is looking forward to building a (virtual) community with you in new ways in the months ahead. These collaborations fuel and sustain us in the best and worst of times, and will power the important work we will do together to strengthen our region’s economic and problem-solving impact in water. In the meantime, I’m excited to leave you with this new video featuring Current’s work and our partners. I hope it inspires you to follow and join us.

Be safe, be well, and be in touch.

Alaina Harkness Executive Director