On December 10, 2014, American University Center for Environmental Policy and the Everglades Foundation co-hosted a forum to discuss initiatives in Florida and nationwide to address water quality issues from a policy perspective and as a market-based approach.  The event is part of a series of dialogue sessions on “The Future of Water,” presented by the Center under the auspices of the William K. Reilly Fund for Environmental Governance and Leadership.

The event included a diverse group of leaders from local government, business and non-profit communities including the Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department, Carnival Cruise, Dream in Green and Tropical Audubon Society, as well as individuals interested in the future of our water supply. The conversation was led by William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator, co-chair of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, and founding partner of Aqua International Partners, State Senator Joe Negron of Florida (32nd District), Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, and Dan Fiorino, Director of the Center for Environmental Policy.

Mr. Eikenberg opened up the discussion with a powerful statement – “We have to get it right, the world is watching.” With this remark he set the context for Everglades restoration and conservation. Mr. Eikenberg reminded us that the Everglades is not only a regional issue but also of “country-wide importance, a national treasure with strong economic benefits.”

State Senator Negron’s positive perspective on the issue of water quality was encouraging. He saw the environment as a success story and reiterated that the growing movement sees the issue as solvable.   Furthermore, Senator Negron stated that “we have solved bigger problems before” and has great confidence that “Florida will solve its water issues as long as progress is harnessed”.

Mr. Reilly confirmed we are seeing a transformation in American waters and as we move forward we need efficiency in water use, innovation in technology, cost-effective solutions, state leadership and, most importantly, a comprehensive plan to accommodate and mitigate the effects of sea level rise.

The panel of speakers left us thinking about how to fix this important and complex problem to be able to pass on a new and unspoiled torch to future generations.