CNT presents ‘Smart Water for Smart Region’ vision at Great Lakes Summit
CNT Water Program Director, Harriet Festing, recently presented the new ‘Smart Water for Smart Region’ initiative to an audience of utilities managers and businesses at the American Water Works Association-Pennsylvania Section’s Great Lakes Summit. Her presentation, underpinned by fresh survey research carried out by CNT, indicated that water infrastructure problems across the Great Lakes states are widespread and a threat to cities. In the first surveys of their kind—one on urban flooding and one on water loss control—the research revealed the magnitude of the problems facing water industry professionals, and identified opportunities to work across the industry in the Great Lakes states to alleviate these significant problems.
Smart Water for Smart Regions was launched in Chicago on September 19th at an event hosted by State Farm to over 100 guests. The initiative offers a blueprint for the responsible utilization of water in the Great Lakes states. The goal is to help cities deliver water services to homes and businesses more efficiently, while protecting the region’s water resources. The initiative is being sponsored by State Farm, the Joyce Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.
CNT undertook a major effort this summer to identify people interested in reducing the threat of flooding in their property (home, business, public building, non-profit) and neighborhood. Through interviews and surveys of identify communities with the greatest need for assistance.
Key findings from the research
The two surveys, which targeted the most populous cities and/or the largest utilities in the Great Lakes states (our flooding survey also included Canada), identified three broad trends.
1. Local residents are directly affected
Residents and property owners in every community suffer from basement, backyard, and street flooding. Water professionals do not take the threat lightly; by a wide majority they described future flooding as “likely” to “almost certain.” At the same time, large amounts of potable water, the treatment of which was paid for by local residents through their bills and taxes, leaks from our antiquated water supply infrastructure.
2. Leadership faces obstacles
Despite its prevalence, only half of the stormwater utilities and municipalities surveyed have a plan to counter flooding, and less than 30 percent of the utility respondents have a policy in place for reducing water losses. Our surveys revealed a hodgepodge of definitions, measurements, and regulations to guide community leaders. Without common methods and standards and without dedicated budgets and resources, water professionals lack the tools they need to fix the problems.
3. Water professionals are looking for assistance
Sixty percent of the respondents for the water-loss control survey, and 76 percent of respondents for our flooding survey, said that they were interested in working collaboratively to devise best practices.
The survey highlights the opportunity to alleviate urban flooding through increased collaboration in the Great Lakes states.
- The 30 survey respondents serve 330 municipalities and nearly 23% of the total population of the Great Lakes states and province.
- All 30 respondents received flooding complaints
- 80 percent characterize the annual number of complaints as medium or large.
- Stormwater is flooding into people’s backyards, streets and parking lots (90% of respondents), into the interior of buildings through sewer backups (83.3%), and through the walls of homes and buildings (46.7%).
- Only 53.3% have a plan for dealing with property flooding; fewer have a system in place for tracking the plan’s success or failure.
- 20% have estimated the cost of flood-related damage in their community.
- 75% are interested in improving collaboration and developing best practices.
This survey highlights the need and opportunity for a transition in the way water infrastructure and services are managed.
- The 55 water service providers who responded to our survey serve almost 500 municipalities and a population of 9.8 million.
- Their collective water supply infrastructure system includes over 63,000 miles of pipe.
- The average pipe within these systems is 50 years old.
- Together they leak an estimated 66.5 billion gallons of water per year.
- Almost three-quarters (71%) have no policy in place to control water loss.
- Two-thirds (67.3%) do not publicly report on the condition of their infrastructure.
- Most utilities (76.4%) are already engaging their customers on water.
- 60% are interested in improving collaboration and developing best practices.
The evidence is clear: the cities of the Great Lakes region face serious problems in managing water. CNT launched “Smart Water for Smart Region” initiative to help communities across the Great Lakes states achieve pragmatic changes in the way they manage water as a resource—changes that are good for residents, good for business, and good for the environment.
For more information about the new initiative, contact Harriet Festing at email@example.com or 773-269-4042.