Water Institute looks to open dialogue on Capital Region freshwater with Blue 2050 initiative

The Water Institute of the Gulf unveiled a new initiative today that it hopes will open a community dialogue on sustaining and capitalizing on the Capital Region’s freshwater assets. Into the Blue 2050, as the initiative is called, seeks to increase public awareness of the area’s freshwater assets and engage the community in planning for ways to use those assets to enhance recreation, economic development and quality of life in Baton Rouge.

“Water is a global resource. It is certainly a capital area resource. And so we’re looking at a local and a global value for this resource,” says Water Institute President and CEO Chip Groat, who introduced the initiative in a speech to the Baton Rouge Press Club this afternoon. “We’re trying to cast water and its value here in the Capital Region in terms of its value to all of us in the Capital Region.”

While Into the Blue 2050 is designed to increase public awareness about freshwater assets in Baton Rouge, it’s also very much about elevating the Water Institute’s profile among the general public and, long term, lead to more diversified sources of financial support for the agency.

The Water Institute was created in 2011 as an independent nonprofit dedicated to research on coastal and deltaic systems, with a specific focus on Louisiana’s coastal restoration projects. But while the agency has grown its reputation among scientists, it has yet to capture the public’s imagination, which makes it difficult to attract money for projects and research beyond that which comes from the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Water Institute officials say the new initiative does not mean they’re abandoning their original mission of coastal research. Rather, they are trying to reach a broader audience and become a resource of exportable knowledge on a wider range of water-related subjects.

“I don’t want to imply we’re moving on from coastal restoration because we’re not,” says Nick Speyrer, director of planning, coordination and outreach for the Water Institute. “This is a fleshing out of a mission, not a substitution of a mission.”

Into the Blue 2050 came about last fall, after the Water Institute and the Environment and Health Council of Louisiana led a focus group of nearly 40 community leaders to develop principles and objectives to serve as the foundation of the initiative.

“Projects already under way both at the Water Institute and other organizations are based on  the incredible value of our water resources,” Groat says. “With Into the Blue 2050, we hope to track these types of initiatives and bring them together under a common moniker and vision, which will strengthen our region’s identity as a global water capital.”

The Water Institute has more details on Into the Blue 2050—Stephanie Riegel

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