EPA Administrator Congratulates 2014 U.S. Water Prize Winners

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U.S. Water Alliance
U.S. Water Alliance Water Prize Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy

The U.S. Water Prize ceremony was hosted April 7, 2014 at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“A huge piece of climate change revolves around water,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy as she addressed more than 300 water leaders at the U.S. Water Prize ceremony hosted April 7, 2014 at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony celebrated four winners: Alliance for Water Efficiency, Chicago; American Water, Voorhees, N.J.; Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati; and Orange County Water District and Sanitation District, California.

“There’s a thread that ties all these winners together,” McCarthy said. “It’s that they aren’t just thinking about providing clean water today—but managing it for the future. That kind of ingenuity requires thinking outside the box. It requires breaking down barriers and cross-collaboration.”

McCarthy connected U.S. Water Prize winner’s accomplishments to EPA’s work and announced the release of their second “Blueprint” addressing energy reduction and recovery at drinking water and wastewater facilities. “The 150,000 drinking water and 15,000 wastewater facilities nationwide account for almost 2% of electricity consumption,” McCarthy said. “That’s enough to power 6.5 million homes a year.”

“The Blueprint shows how bright America’s water future can be if innovation and partnership rise to the top," said U.S. Water Alliance President Ben Grumbles. "EPA should be commended for articulating a vision and helping others, public and private, local and national, to step forward with sustainable solutions to our most important and enduring challenges.”

Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, U.S. Department of the Interior, also picked up on the theme as he congratulated winners: “Innovation in partnerships may very well be the key.” He described his experiences touring areas that have been hit by extreme weather and drought. “The urgency of these events epitomizes the phrase “water is life.”

In its fourth year, the U.S. Water Prize is presented by the U.S. Water Alliance to elevate those organizations and individuals with strategies that promote the value of water and the power of innovating and integrating for one water sustainability. The 2014 awards were sponsored by engineering consultants Brown and Caldwell, CH2M Hill, HDR and Earth Day Texas, a non-profit organization. Nominations are reviewed by an independent, volunteer panel of judges representative of the most respected leaders in the fields of water and environmental policy.

“I appreciate water in ways I never dreamed before starting this work,” said Kelly Kopp, chair of the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) while accepting the award with President Mary Ann Dickinson.

“Water efficiency is a much deeper issue than just turning off the water while brushing your teeth,” Dickinson said. “When we started six years ago, we were the only advocates in this space. We’ve played a unique role, advocating for water efficiency in the same way energy efficiency has had advocates for decades." AWE was recognized for uniting multiple sectors to stress how efficiency benefits diverse objectives: utility economic viability, environmental benefits, jobs creation, and solutions at national, state and local levels.

Since 1981, American Water’s Innovation and Environmental Stewardship Team, has been conducting cutting edge research, development and collaboration to lift the water and wastewater sector to new heights, underscoring the value of water and the benefit of technology. “American Water had the vision more than 30 years ago to dedicate dollars to research,” said Dr. Mark LeChevallier, director of the team. “They understood the value of research for our future.” More than 20 scientists with a budget of more than $3 million are dedicated to the research that is having a positive impact across the entire water sector.

Tony Parrott, executive director, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati accepted the award with a story about the problem Cincinnati addressed, similar to what many municipalities face across the United States. Aging and inadequate infrastructure left Cincinnati with a consent decree whose gray infrastructure solution was beyond the rate-payers ability to pay. They developed Project Groundwork and saved an estimated $200M. “Perhaps even more important, the green infrastructure solution created community benefits in improved water quality, new jobs and neighborhood revitalization,” Parrott said. “It wasn’t easy. We had to do an enormous massive public involvement piece—760 town hall meetings in all. The great part is we’re solving community problems.”

The collaborative effort of Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District’s (OCSD) Ground Water Replenishment System (GWRS) is recognized as a global leader in reclamation and reuse. The system is a great example of applying and benefiting from the “One Water” management approach. It reclaims 70 million gal per day and is expanding to 100 million gal per day, all to boost regional water security and recharge precious supplies. “Through this collaboration, the GWRS provides a reliable, drought-proof solution to sustaining water supplies,” said Chairman Troy Edgar, OCSD, accepting the award with Denis Bilodeau, director, OCWD. “The GWRS has emerged as one of the most celebrated civil engineering and water reuse projects in the world.”

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