A report released Monday lists the goals to manage water resources in the Baton Rouge area, from recognizing the water resource riches the Capital Region enjoys to promoting a range of water-related businesses.
The objectives are outlined in a new vision document called “Into the Blue 2050” produced through the efforts of The Water Institute of the Gulf and the Environment & Health Council of Louisiana.
Released Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club by Chip Groat, the institute’s president and chief executive officer, the report outlines the results of collaborations between businesses, environmental organizations, industry, government and nonprofits.
About 40 leaders of these groups met in October to come up with a common vision about how the Capital Area could become an “economic, cultural, social and sustainable global water capital.”
“We’re particularly well blessed in the capital region with water resources,” Groat said. Although there are disagreements about what should be done for certain water issues, like the saltwater intrusion making its way toward freshwater wells in Baton Rouge, there are also agreements.
Since it’s beginning in 2012, The Water Institute of the Gulf has primarily been involved in research and projects involved with state coastal restoration. However, Groat said, the vision the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which helped set up the nonprofit research institute, had always been to focus on water issues in general. This project of finding a common vision for water resources for the Capital Area was a way to step into that larger water effort.
The institute also has helped the state Louisiana Water Commission identify current and future water use and rank water basins based on the vulnerability to being overused. In addition, the institute will work with nonprofits and government agencies to identify what information is available about these water basins and what needs to be learned for the state to make more informed decisions, he said.
“Into the Blue 2050” outlines a number of agreed upon objectives, none of which are binding, but serve as a guideline for any future effort, Groat said.
Those objectives include making the Baton Rouge area a recognized water capital for research, technology and science and a hub of water-based businesses such as engineering firms. In addition, the members agreed that the Baton Rouge area will sustain high-quality water supply for a number of uses including homes, ecosystem, industrial and recreation.
The objectives also call for getting residents, businesses and political leaders of the Capital Area more involved and aware about water resources.
“We see this as a first step in an ongoing process,” said Phillip LaFargue II, associate director of communications with The Water Institute of the Gulf. “The goal for this first step was what values do we hold in common.”
Although the next steps of the effort aren’t known, there are potential ideas of what could come next including the formation of a water council that would help better pursue items outlined in the “Into the Blue 2050” report, much like Milwaukee has done.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.