CNT Launches “Smart Water for Smart Regions” Initiative with Support from the Joyce Foundation and State Farm

CHICAGO (May 21, 2012)—The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works nationally to promote more sustainable urban communities, has launched a “Smart Water for Smart Regions” initiative to transform water service and infrastructure in the Great Lakes region. The initiative will help communities deliver water services to homes and businesses more efficiently, effectively, and transparently, while sustaining the region’s water resources. The initiative is made possible with generous support from the Joyce Foundation and State Farm.

“Communities in the Great Lakes region, stretching from Minnesota to New York, are paying the price for deteriorating water infrastructure: unreliable service, rising water rates, and flooded neighborhoods,” said Harriet Festing, director of the CNT Water program. “Our environment suffers as well, with increased pollution of rivers and lakes and severe physical damage to landscapes and habitat. CNT will work with communities large and small to find practical, innovative, cost-effective ways to address these widespread problems.”

The “Smart Water for Smart Regions” initiative has already begun with a survey of more than 100 Great Lakes utilities and municipalities about their water service policies and practices. Preliminary survey results show that the challenges are pervasive, as is enthusiasm for collaborating together to overcome them. The full survey findings will be released this summer.

“State Farm processes thousands of claims each year for property damage related to failing water infrastructure,” said Michael Rivas Rossman, State Farm Public Affairs. “We see how prevalent, costly, and devastating this is for families and business owners, and we’re pleased to be working with CNT to find ways to better understand and address the problem.”

Working with the Alliance for Water Efficiency, American Water Works Association, Great Lakes Commission, and the Water Environment Federation, CNT’s “Smart Water for Smart Regions” initiative will take on these challenges with research, piloted solutions, and advocacy. As part of the initiative, CNT will:

  • Establish collaborative programs with water supply utilities in the Great Lakes states who are seeking to reduce the volume of leakage and increase public awareness of the problem.
  • Work with the largest stormwater utilities and municipalities to strengthen flood control strategies with a focus on simple, low-cost tools such as building rain gardens, repairing private lateral sewage pipes, and installing water permeable paving.
  • Pioneer the nation’s first a one-stop wet weather retrofit or “Wetrofit” service to reduce flooding and waste in the Chicago region.
  • Advocate for model state legislation that governs water utilities, including developing stronger targets, and public reporting on infrastructure and efficiency investments.
  • Mobilize leaders, communities, and individuals across the Great Lakes to demand smarter infrastructure investment to reduce costs and efficiently conserve water.

“Restoring the health of the Great Lakes and area waterways is critical to the sustainability of the region.  Investments in this work are vital to supporting a vision to protect the environment and resources for the future,” said Molly M. Flanagan, a program officer at the Joyce Foundation.  “For many years, the Joyce Foundation has helped CNT develop innovative, cost-effective solutions to water infrastructure woes. We are pleased to help them now develop networks of communities that will bring their solutions to scale across the Great Lakes.”

“Efficient use of resources is what drives CNT, and this is an important time to ensure we make the right high-impact investments and policy change needed to improve people’s quality of life, reduce costs, and improve water quality,” said Kathryn Tholin, CEO of CNT. “We are grateful to the Joyce Foundation and State Farm for helping us expand our efforts and support communities as they make the transition to smart water services.”


Emily Robinson, Center for Neighborhood Technology,, 773-269-4043


Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on transportation, energy, water, community development, and climate. Visit for more information.