For immediate release: September 6, 2022
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Water Trade is pleased to announce the hiring of the inaugural CEO of Vida Water, a new Public Benefit Corporation that aims to close the clean water gap for underserved populations across Texas.
Jim Drees, a longtime Texas resident with extensive corporate and philanthropic experience, was selected from among dozens of candidates following an eight-month national search. A mechanical engineer who worked previously at Ford Motor Company and General Electric, Drees started his new position on September 6.
“Jim’s history of leading teams to innovate technical solutions to complex problems makes him a perfect fit for Vida Water,” said Sharlene Leurig, Chief Executive Officer of Texas Water Trade, the Austin-based nonprofit that formed Vida Water. “In both his professional and personal life, he is strongly committed to equity and social justice, key bedrocks for Vida Water’s mission of providing safe, affordable drinking water to all Texans, no matter their income or zip code.”
Drees spent nearly three decades working with the water and wastewater sectors before pivoting his career in 2016 to nonprofit organizations. He also led a decade-long sister church partnership to bring water and electricity to a civil war resettlement community in El Salvador.
“I am deeply honored to support Texas Water Trade’s mission of ending water poverty for Texas’ most marginalized communities,” Drees said. “Clean water is vital and I’m excited to begin building the team, culture and operations at Vida Water to ensure all Texans have access to it.”
The Vida Water project was one of five projects selected last year as part of the Lone Star Prize competition, a joint effort of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Lever for Change to find and fund bold solutions focused on building healthier, stronger communities in Texas. Texas Water Trade received a $500,000 startup grant for the project and is positioned to receive more support if key performance indicators are met.
Millions of Texans do not have reliable access to clean, affordable drinking water. The problem is widespread across all geographies and income levels, including: those dependent on public water supplies with lead-tainted water; those reliant on private groundwater wells that are unmonitored and unregulated for water quality; and those in underserved communities along the southern border and across the state who have no water infrastructure at all.
Vida Water aims to close this water gap by deploying and maintaining onsite water treatment technologies for households and schools using a subscription payment system designed to beat what the lowest income Texans pay today for bottled water. The carbon filtration and reverse osmosis treatment systems it will deploy and maintain are already being used by millions of Americans today.
Over the past few months, Texas Water Trade, the University of Texas at El Paso and Penn State have been surveying hundreds of Texas households to understand their spending patterns for drinking water and their willingness to pay for a subscription-based water service. The surveys are being conducted among low-income households in El Paso County, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Dallas and Houston.
Vida Water will begin providing on-the-ground service in 2023.
About Texas Water Trade
Texas Water Trade is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2018. Its mission is to catalyze sustainable water transactions in Texas to ensure clean, flowing water for people and nature.
About Vida Water
Vida Water is a wholly owned subsidiary of Texas Water Trade and was incorporated in 2021 in Texas as a Public Benefit Corporation. Its vision is to provide reliable, safe drinking water solutions to Texans no matter their income or zip code.
Contact: Peyton Fleming, Texas Water Trade