The Nature Conservancy and the Milwaukee Water Council announced today that Lisa Wojnarowski Downes has been hired to help in the development of global sustainability standards for water use and management that will be applied in the United States and Canada.
The Nature Conservancy hired Downes, a former program manager for the Council of Great Lakes Governors, to coordinate the development of a water certification program for businesses, cities and other major water users and managers.
The initiative is comparable to other voluntary certification systems including standards that encourage energy-efficient buildings (such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program) and sustainable forestry.
Downes will be responsible for bringing stakeholders throughout the United States and Canada together to help with the development of an international water stewardship program under the Alliance for Water Stewardship.
Downes will work closely with the Milwaukee Water Council, which is hosting the effort, officially known as the North America Regional Initiative, to be part of the global multi-stakeholder process to develop a global water stewardship certification program. Other regional initiatives under the Alliance for Water Stewardship are already underway in Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, and are currently being explored in Asia and the Middle East.
Karin Krchnak, director of international water policy for the Conservancy, said that the overall goal is to assist major water users and water utilities interested in better protecting rivers, lakes and aquifers throughout the world.
“We want to recognize and reward major water users and providers who do a great job in helping us conserve water for the benefit of people and nature,” Krchnak. “And we want to encourage and guide others so they can be better stewards of our environment.”
Downes will work in office space provided by the Water Council, which decided last year to host the initiative in part to accelerate the Milwaukee region’s campaign to establish itself as a hub for the freshwater industry, water research and freshwater stewardship.
To support the North America Regional Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and the Water Council will secure $1.2 million in funding. The following companies have pledged contributions: A. O. Smith Corp., Badger Meter, Bucyrus International, Constellation Energy, Diversy, MillerCoors, Quad/Graphics and Veolia Water North America. The State of Wisconsin has also agreed to support the effort in its initial year.
Paul Jones, CEO of A. O. Smith Corp. and co-chair of the Milwaukee Water Council, said that he’s anxious for Downes to start work next month. “I consider this to be an essential enterprise and one that will establish the Milwaukee region as a global leader on water issues,” Jones said.
In her work for the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Downes assisted Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces in developing, negotiating and implementing agreements that provided for the responsible use and protection of the Great Lakes. She also managed a regional water conservation and efficiency initiative.
“The Nature Conservancy and the Water Council have excellent reputations and great relationships with a number of partners that will be key to the success of this initiative,” Downes said. “Building upon that foundation to collaboratively develop standards that will help advance freshwater conservation around the world is a tremendous and exciting challenge.”
Downes, 28, who currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Thomas, is relocating to the Milwaukee area. Her hobbies include hiking, camping and photography.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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