Interior establishes conservation and water center

Interior establishes conservation and water center

New Natural Resources Investment Center will focus on ways to increase investment in water conservation, infrastructure

A new project led by the Department of the Interior will work on developing ways to increase investment in water conservation and habitat conservation through cooperation with the private sector.

Related: New ag database helps tackle water conservation issues

The Natural Resource Investment Center will ensure investments in conservation also will support economic development goals.

"Given increased development pressures, climate impacts and constrained budgets, Interior is pursuing innovative approaches with private sector organizations to help accomplish our balanced land management and conservation mission," said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the DOI in Washington, DC, on Friday, July 10, 2015. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

"I am confident the private sector can play a meaningful role in working with us to advance the goals of smart development alongside thoughtful conservation," she said.

The Center will focus on three objectives:

1. Increase investment in water conservation and build up water supply resilience by facilitating water exchanges or transfers in the Western U.S;

2. Increase investment in critical water infrastructure – both major rehabilitation and replacement of existing infrastructure and new infrastructure needs – by developing new financing approaches and helping to execute project ideas; and

3. Foster private investment and support well-structured markets that advance efficient permitting and effective landscape-level conservation for species, habitat and other natural resources.

The new Natural Resource Investment Center will be helped by the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S Geological Survey to accomplish its objectives.

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The Center will model its water efficiency and transfer efforts in part on the successful initiatives of the Central Valley Project in California. CVP improves water supply reliability through expanded use of voluntary water transfers and other tactics.

To promote increased investment in critical water infrastructure, the Center will also work to develop new financing approaches and engage with non-federal partners to make investments that build water supply resilience.

Related: Conservation can be profitable, too

These could include storage, pipelines, canals, and investments in efficiency that help to stretch and better manage scarce water supplies and sustain river ecosystems.

The Center will also identify opportunities for private sector investments in important habitat conservation needs on public and private lands.

The Department of the Interior manages approximately 20% of the land in the United States, and is the largest wholesale water provider in the country.

The Center is part of President Obama's Build America Investment Initiative, which calls on federal agencies to find new ways to increase investment in ports, roads, water and sewer systems, bridges, broadband networks, and other 21st-century infrastructure projects.

It's also part of Pay for Success, an initiative that seeks to employ innovative new strategies to help ensure that the essential services of government produce their intended outcomes. The infrastructure improvements are facilitated by building partnerships among federal, state, local and tribal governments and private-sector investors.

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