Vector Center and partners convene emergency briefing with experts
Drought is upon the American West — with major implications for human health, biodiversity, agriculture, food security, supply chains, cities, land use, and the most very basic of human rights. It’s a story worsened by climate change, which has brought higher temperatures, more extreme conditions, and heightened risks.
To bring urgent analysis, clarity, and context to the crises, Vector Center joined partners Circle of Blue, APCO Worldwide, the Pacific Institute, Webit Foundation, The Virtual Show, and the United Nations Food Systems Summit to convene “Drought in the American West,” a special interactive broadcast held August 4.
“This moment marks the intersection of disruption and determination as the American West embodies a pivotal challenge,” said J. Carl Ganter, Vector Center CEO. “This is a moment of relevancy for the world’s water — from supplying our cities and growing our food, to the most basic human rights and environmental sustainability.”
Agriculture, consuming between 70% to 90% of the world’s freshwater, is particularly vulnerable, Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, told the audience, which included business leaders, researchers, media, and the public.
“We’re really in an emergency now in terms of being able to cope with this challenge,” Glickman said. “It affects every single American more than any other issue we face.” Glickman also underscored the fragility of global markets, especially commodities, affected by fluctuating water supplies.
As water scarcity sweeps the West — bringing fires, power outages, competition over water, and ecosystem collapse — many see this as the imperative moment for rapid innovation in agriculture, technology, nature-based systems, and policy to manage dwindling supplies.
Cody Pope, Chief Innovation Officer at Vector Center, wound back history to reveal how Vector Center has been tracking the drought conditions long before they manifested into a perfect storm of groundwater depletion, low rain and snowfall, and overuse of stored water.
“What we need to talk about is preparing for a new normal,” Pope told the audience, while showcasing the company’s AI-powered Perception Reality Engine. “The perception is that a drought ends, but the reality is this isn’t going to be a one-off drought. We’ve got to be prepared for a normality where rain water and snowpack might not be available as a water resource going forward in the American West.”
It’s time for business to step up and act beyond their own borders, said Andre Fourie, global director for water sustainability at Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer. “In the past, there was a strong focus on just-in-time supply chains. But we’ve seen in the agricultural supply chain that disruptions can be quite severe. “I’m concerned that collective action seems to be much easier to talk about than to do, for some reason.”