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Businesses must connect to protect water supplies EDITORIAL

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All businesspeople must juggle a wide array of priorities each day. One that should be high on every-one's list is the health and sustainability of water resources in the Garden State.

From a business standpoint, the case for safeguarding our water couldn’t be stronger, as the health of our water is intrinsically linked to any state’s economic health.

This is particularly true in New Jersey. The Delaware River Watershed alone, for example, contributes more than $22 billion in economic activity and 600,000 jobs to the region. The farming and tourism industries are closely tied to abundant, clean, sustainable water supplies, with tourism alone contributing $44 billion and 321,000 jobs to New Jersey’s economy.

Some businesses that are directly dependent on clean water — like breweries and wineries — not only enhance the culture in our state but also contribute significantly to our economic strength to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

You don’t need to work in the farming, food or tourism industry to benefit greatly from a clean environment and high-quality water.

All businesses would benefit from setting new trends in water resource protection, directly and indirectly through their customers and employees, and also within their communities.  

In a poll from the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents over 325,000 forward-thinking business executives, owners and investors across the U.S., 70 percent of respondents attested to the direct link between clean water protection and spurring economic growth.

When we support clean, healthy water, our economy reaps the benefits. The campaign “Clean Water is Good for Business” is one resource for members of the business community who recognize this important cause.

Led by the American Sustainable Business Council, a multistate coalition of businesses created the campaign to advocate for increasing adoption of programs to improve water quality, ensure funding for water infrastructure and conservation and support national and local advocacy efforts to protect clean water in the watershed.

Businesses can gain significant upside potential by standing together as entrepreneurs for social change. As demonstrated by the green building industry, better solutions exist and there is no need to wait for government to subsidize public solutions. Private industries can innovate and implement market-leading changes on their own, at their own facilities and with their own resources. 

Around the country, sustainable businesses have demonstrated that they can cut water demands and waste discharges by 45 percent to 95 percent by using small, decentralized water reuse systems.

These are the kinds of solutions we should be incentivizing and adopting in New Jersey — and quickly — in order to safeguard our valuable waterways, and organizations can help scale these solutions.

While private sector investments spur market-driven innovations in water management systems, smart public policy can serve to scale the potentially transformative impacts of these innovations economy-wide. 

But public investment strategy must be informed by leading-edge private sector water management innovation.

Recently the EPA granted $84.5 million to the state for water infrastructure projects. The business community should ensure its voice is heard in the discussion around how these dollars are spent.

Let’s not simply rebuild our old infrastructure. Instead, let’s reinvent our solutions so we drastically reduce pollution, build resilience and create a better future.

What is often posed as an “economy versus the environment” tradeoff is actually a false dilemma; we don’t have to choose between business success and protecting this natural resource. Quite the opposite — market-driven innovation and smart water policies are essential to fostering a vibrant and sustainable economy.

Businesses must play a role in advocating for clean, reliable, abundant water supply, while also demonstrating how this critical resource can be managed more responsibly and sustainably.

When it comes to our state’s water, everything is connected. In order to defend our water as a business community, we must connect to protect it.

Ed Clerico is a recognized innovator and entrepreneur in the field of sustainable infrastructure. He is CEO emeritus of Natural Systems Utilities, which he founded in 1984.

Richard Lawton is executive director of the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council, an organization whose aim is to achieve economic development that is compatible with shared prosperity and environmental stewardship. 

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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