China Strives for Clean Waters with EPA

By Sasha Koo-Oshima

All over the world, developing countries are faced with the challenge of trying to grow their economies despite finite water resources. The U.S. government, including EPA, is helping countries address some of their most pressing clean water needs while trying to develop international markets for U.S. businesses that specialize in environmental technology. Last December, I traveled to China as part of a U.S. delegation to help China develop a long-term plan to maximize the country’s water resources in the face of a growing population and the potential impacts of climate change.

Our delegation included representatives from 20 U.S. companies, which consulted with Chinese government officials on a host of issues like water and energy efficiency, wastewater treatment and water reuse technologies. The impressive turnout by these companies shows a genuine interest in the growing Chinese marketplace. I’m enthusiastic that the Chinese government, which has set aside about $5.5 billion over the next eight years to develop a series of ground water-related strategies, has shown such strong interest in a growing sector of the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is already a world leader in producing advanced water technologies. According to the Department of Commerce, the U.S. environmental technology industry in 2008 generated approximately $300 billion in revenues, $43.8 billion in exports, and supported almost 1.7 million jobs. The U.S. share of foreign environmental technology markets has continued to grow and given the U.S. environmental technology industry a positive trade surplus for the past decade, and our work with the Chinese government is helping further the National Export Initiative, an effort by the federal government to expand overseas markets for U.S. businesses.

Above all, the most productive part of our meetings with the Chinese government centered around the exchange of ideas. Human capacity and knowhow, as much as any device or piece of machinery, is what’s needed to achieve any goal. I’m particularly excited about a partnership that’s developing between communities near Liangzi Lake in China and Minnesota Lake here in the U.S., where the two “sister lakes” are identifying strategies to help one another address common issues.

Business is all about relationships, and the relationship EPA is developing with China is not only helping China address some of its most pressing environmental problems, it’s enabling U.S. companies to take advantage of the growing global demand for environmental technology. And it’s all in the name of providing clean water to communities and businesses.

About the author: Sasha Koo-Oshima is the Senior International Water Policy Advisor for the EPA’s Office of Water, and has worked on China’s water quality and water resources development for nearly a decade. Sasha formerly served as the principal officer on water quality for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency and in the Scientific Secretariat of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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