The headlines may be awash in stories of water-related problems and crises, but resourceful municipalities across the country work to provide the greatest possible value to their communities every day. When it comes to proactive approaches and problem solving in water-utility management, innovations abound in big and small cities alike.
The Prairie Waters project in Colorado is an innovative system that combines natural filtration with advanced purification to provide an additional 3.3 billion gal of drinking water per year to the City of Aurora. The system utilizes riverbank filtration as well as aquifer recharge and recovery to pull water through layers of sand and gravel to remove contaminants naturally. The water is then sent through a purification facility to remove remaining organics, particles and pathogens to be suitable to drink. The project cost approximately $650 million and was paid for by cash reserves, ratepayers, a low interest loan from the state and $450 million in bonds.
The City of Philadelphia is a great example of forward-thinking leadership in a big city setting. Philadelphia is addressing contamination stemming from its combined sewer overflow system by creating new assets citywide. Initially launching this project to meet its regulatory obligations, the city has committed to using green infrastructure—such as rain gardens, pervious pavement, green roofs and stream and wetland restoration—to remove pollutants from storm water, and other green tools to keep millions of gallons of storm water out of the sewer system. It is planning to spend $2.4 billion on this effort over 25 years, with the goal of capturing 85% of the combined sewage during precipitation events. The city believes these innovative investments will translate to a savings of up to $7.5 billion over what it would cost to use only traditional methods of water capture, and it anticipates that most of the project costs will be paid for with rate increases.
The City of Lenexa, Kan., is another example of successful storm water management in a growing city. Lenexa is a community outside of Kansas City that wanted to get ahead of the storm water problems that tend to come with increased development. It calls its approach “Rain to Recreation.” Perhaps the most iconic portion of its storm water management program is Lake Lenexa. The dam and spillway facility contains trails, wetlands and picnic areas, as well as access for boating and fishing. In addition to the recreation features, the project achieved its goals of greater flood control, improved water quality, natural stream preservation and storm water management. The Lake Lenexa project itself cost approximately $24 million but is part of a larger, ongoing program that has cost many millions more. An increase in the local sales tax and a development charge provide the bulk of the funding.
These projects are just a microcosm of proactive and innovative solutions succeeding in municipal water treatment and management. They also have in common that they relied heavily on public funding—either through higher rates, taxes or bonds—to successfully implement their visions.
If you are trying to innovate in your community and funding is a challenge for you, remember that there is a wide range of options beyond taxes, bonds and rate hikes. From foundation grants, cost-shares and co-op agreements to commercial bank products and even private investment, funders across the industry are anxious to play a role in solving water problems and making options available. You can access those options at SplashLink.com, and right now you can receive 60 days at no charge, courtesy of Water & Wastes Digest. Use code WWD-Splash60 at checkout, and get your projects going.
Jason Wuliger is co-founder and vice president of SplashLink.com. Wuliger can be reached at [email protected] or 440.497.0047.