Investment and Innovation Combine to Create Water Solutions in the Midwest

By Todd Appel, Vice President at Quantified Ventures

Photo courtesy of Patrick Perkins.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Perkins.

This week, I had the privilege of attending the Midwest Water Summit hosted by Confluence Philanthropy. We learned about the exciting work underway by a range of investors, foundations, technologists and corporations to address the myriad issues in the water sector.

These include widespread and equitable access to clean and safe drinking water, pollutant levels in rivers, lakes and oceans, and resilience of coastal areas both along the Gulf, Mississippi River and elsewhere. In many geographies, these issues often disproportionately impact our most vulnerable populations.

In urban areas, stormwater capture is a priority for addressing a major source of pollution runoff in surface bodies. This requires investment in green infrastructure both in public spaces and private developments, as well as application of exciting new monitoring technologies.

In agricultural areas along the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River and elsewhere, runoff of nitrates, phosphorus and sediments from farms is a major source of water pollution. This can be addressed through partnerships between municipalities and farmers to implement a range of on-farm management practices. The challenges and priorities in the West and Louisiana are different — drought management and sustainable use vs. resilience to storms, although in both regions lower income populations are most at risk.

A number of foundations, such as McKnight and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, are focusing on the health of the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico, whereas a wide range of impact investors provide access to exciting investment opportunities in infrastructure and technologies to improve efficiency and effectiveness both in drinking water monitoring and supply and wastewater treatment.

Water is a major priority in the work that Quantified Ventures does in designing and structuring Environmental Impact Bonds (EIB). Following issuance of the DC Water EIB, we’re working with both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to structure EIBs for green infrastructure in up to 6 communities facing stormwater management challenges, and are designing an EIB in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund for wetland development in Louisiana. We’re also designing pay-for-success models to advance agricultural best management practices. At the conference, Tina May from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN spoke about our work in Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa, where we are identifying municipalities to structure partnerships with farmers to address a range of water issues.

No entity can do this alone — we’re stronger when we combine the strengths of the public, private, and social sectors. We also know that we’re learning as we go in this space. Gatherings like the Midwest Water Summit provide opportunites to share these lessons, and we hope to continue this sharing online. Have an innovative water solution to share? Contact us.

Todd Appel brings 25+ years experience in public-private partnerships, multi-party deal structuring, organizational transformation, performance management, and alliance development. Todd joined Quantified Ventures from IBM’s Global Public Sector Practice, where he was a leader in the IBM Smarter Cities Initiative, structuring complex projects to improve delivery of government health, transportation, public safety and education programs through predictive data analytics. He led strategy and business development for IBM’s entry into the intelligent transportation market, and also led a global deal structuring team, providing expertise in development of large consulting and technology contracts with government departments in the U.S. and Europe.

Eric Letsinger