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Meridian Institute

America's Great Watershed Initiative

Related: Environment and Natural Resources, Resilience

America’s Great Watershed Initiative (AGWI) is a collaboration that seeks solutions for meeting—for present and future generations—the multiple demands placed on the vast and complex Mississippi watershed system by integrating issues, partners, and ideas at the full watershed scale.

The AGWI seeks to build and implement a vision based on collaboration and mutually beneficial outcomes, in contrast to single-purpose advocacy. To do this, the AGWI will help find solutions to issues, such as energy, transportation, water quality, and more comprehensive flood management, that span multiple regions, while respecting vital work at smaller scales; build upon strong leadership and link to and augment successful efforts; create a broad partnership that can serve as a unified voice for the nation’s watershed as a system; support federal and state authorities while working to make their efforts more integrated and effective; and leverage creativity that emanates from diversity rather than being hampered by opposing viewpoints.

The key outcomes for the AGWI include:

  • Build recognition among regional and national leaders about the importance of the watershed and the need for integrated management.

  • Establish an enduring, public/private facilitating entity to connect existing institutions and stakeholders and harness the best science in service of a shared vision and more integrated management of the watershed.

  • Develop and report on measures that indicate progress toward achieving the sustainable management and systemwide health of America’s Great Watershed.

  • Elevate local and regional projects that demonstrate effective collaboration and integrated strategies that help achieve system-level objectives.

  • Network with river commissions and similar entities in North America and globally, establishing America’s Great Watershed as a hub for sharing knowledge and best practices related to the management of large rivers and their watersheds.

Meridian Institute provided strategy assistance, facilitation services, and administrative support to a diverse, multi-stakeholder Steering Committee and several working groups that help guide and nurture the collaboration. In addition, Meridian assisted with the design and facilitation of the AGWI’s watershed-wide Summit, held September 26-27, 2012, in St. Louis, Missouri. This Summit was an interactive forum for leaders from throughout the Mississippi watershed and its tributaries. It examined collaborative ways to address geographic, institutional, and issue-based barriers to maximizing the economic, social, and ecological potential of this vital resource and charted a path toward more integrated watershed management through the development of indicators of system-wide health, institutions that support collaboration, and stakeholder involvement.

The AGWI process was initiated in early 2010 by the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They requested that Meridian Institute interview about 40 key stakeholders from diverse perspectives to hear their thoughts about the need for a shared vision and a coherent management strategy for the watershed. The interview findings were summarized in a report presented and discussed at the America’s Inner Coast Summit (AICS) in the summer of 2010.

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