Preparing for and becoming more resilient to water challenges across North America

Last month, water partners gathered in Aspen, Colorado for their first in-person gathering of all BHP Foundation water partners from the United States and Canada.


Participants from the Pacific Institute, Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability, Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and the International Institute for Sustainable Development met to share their learnings around common challenges.

This included sharing their thoughts, risks and barriers to achieving their theory of change – including challenges around working in very complex, siloed water systems, and building trust with diverse stakeholders; their reflections on water and water relationships as a key stakeholder; and the importance of Indigenous and Tribal engagement.

Simrat Mand, Program Director US and Canada said the group spent time discussing opportunities to collaborate and achieve more collective impact. They landed on five key topics to explore over the next few years: data and measurement, communications and outreach, equity, scaling and engagement.

“It was great to see the enthusiasm and momentum for the group to continue engaging, both directly and through the network and we’re now working on a more detailed scope for the network to continue to connect and collaborate,” said Simrat.

“The feedback has been amazing – the group used words like ‘surreal’ and ‘unheard of’ to describe the gathering, in appreciation of the investment of time, effort and resources from the Foundation to bring everyone to together, and have such open conversations – with the funder in the room.”

The group then joined the annual Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum, hosted by BHP Foundation partner Duke University and the Aspen Institute. The Forum serves as a platform for addressing domestic water challenges with diverse representation from stakeholders across the US water sector. Discussions centered around what must be done to ensure the water sector becomes more resilient, and how communities can navigate and prepare for the impacts of increasingly common water-related disasters.

“The group identified a number of key themes. Water related disasters are going to be a regular occurrence in the US. The water sector needs to work together to identify the “big moves” and be more systemic to address the scale of the problem. The tools and solutions we need already exist, we need action now. Stronger water governance is our path out.”

The BHP Foundation’s Canada Country Program and the United States Country Program are both focused on improving the governance and management of water resources to meet the needs of local communities.