CNT Re-Launches Water Program with Panel Discussion on “Breakthrough” Solutions


Key public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders attended a water infrastructure discussion hosted by CNT.

A CNT event to introduce our refocused water program drew more than 100 stakeholders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to the Sidley Austin law firm’s beautiful office in downtown Chicago. CNT CEO Kathryn Tholin and CNT Water Program Director Harriet Festing framed the evening’s panel discussion by describing CNT’s approach to developing sustainability solutions for a wide range of water resource issues.

Festing laid out the water services problem and its complexities. Years of neglect has led to crumbling water infrastructure in the United States, which costs communities millions in lost revenue and damaged property. Infrastructure failure also contributes to flooding, which industry experts estimate cost private property owners in the Chicago region around $150 million in repair costs each year. That flooding also contributes to combined sewer overflows that dump 24 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the Great Lakes annually. These issues are interrelated, social, costly, and getting worse.

CNT’s Water program seeks solutions in three distinct ways: by exposing the problem to build a public mandate for change, testing solutions with pilot projects, and advocating policy changes to bring viable solutions to scale.

Clearly, CNT cannot do it alone. Festing turned it over to three panelists with three different perspectives—Alan Heymann of the DC water and sewage authority, Jack Pizzo of Pizzo and Associates, and Bob Newport of US Environmental Protection Agency—who presented their “breakthrough” water services solutions. Some of the ideas included:

  • Improved communication with rate payers and citizens about water resources
  • Innovative delivery partnerships and alliances with nonprofit and private sectors
  • Changing governance structures and better performance reporting by water utilities
  • Changing regulation to allow for new technologies in water resource infrastructure, such as green infrastructure.

A lively Q&A session followed, with audience members posing questions about Chicago’s Deep Tunnel project, bottled water, grassroots action, and incorporating innovation into how cities meet their legal obligation. To see how the CNT Water program might incorporate these ideas into its work, sign up for our monthly newsletter.