WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 



March 2012, Vol. 49, No. 2

Top Story

WEF Hosts Meeting To Discuss Workforce Issues
Industry leaders share information on programs to draw new talent to wastewater treatment

On Feb. 16, approximately 30 leaders in the wastewater and water treatment industries gathered to discuss workforce issues at Water Environment Federation (WEF) headquarters in Alexandria, Va.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested that WEF convene the meeting for industry professionals in response to President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, in which he stressed the need for training that will provide Americans with skills that lead to employment.
 
Leaders in the wastewater and water treatment industries gathered to discuss workforce issues and programs. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger image.

Attendees, who represented the wastewater, water, and stormwater sectors, included utility general managers and other leaders, human resources and training personnel, and operators.

Speakers discussed the efforts that their organizations have in place to address workforce issues, as well as their experiences working with displaced workers and developing programs to increase industry employment. Speakers included Nancy Stoner, U.S. EPA Office of Water acting assistant administrator; Jeff Eger, WEF executive director; Christine Radke, WEF Water Science and Engineering Center manager; Eileen O’Neill, WEF deputy executive director; Bob Canova, Virginia Western Community College (Roanoke) adjunct instructor; Christina Williams, Loudoun Water (Ashburn, Va.) director of Human Resources and Organizational Development; Ted Scott, Stormwater Maintenance (Sparks, Md.) executive vice president and founder; and Patty Gamby, Washington (D.C.) Aqueduct deputy general manager.

Eger started the conversation, welcoming attendees, discussing the important work those in the industry perform, discussing some of WEF’s initiatives designed to draw more people to work in the industry, such as Work for Water, and introducing Stoner. Work for Water, a joint WEF and American Water Works Association (Denver) project on which EPA collaborates, provides resources to inform and encourage careers in the water sector.
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Jeff Eger, WEF executive director discusses the importance of trained employees in the industry and WEF programs to draw new people to work in the industry at the Feb. 16 meeting. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger image.

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Stoner described many of EPA’s educational efforts, which range from informational videos, websites, and fact sheets to grants and training programs. She explained that EPA is doing “lots of different kinds of things with lots of different partners.” She also mentioned that EPA is hoping to draw military veterans into the field and is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Canova, Williams, Scott, and Gamby described local programs designed to draw new talent into the industry. Most of these programs focus on training and education for high school and college students as well as for military veterans and other adults looking to apply technical skills in the wastewater treatment field.

There was consensus among attendees that water leaders need to find and retain new employees to fill various positions as others retire, provide standardized and adequate training for those new to the field, and expand knowledge and use of current programs.

“This is a great time to let people know that water’s worth it, and the jobs are out there,” Radke said. For more information, see the WEF Wastewater Systems Operations Professionals Certification and Training Position Statement or www.wef.org/OperationsResources.

Meeting attendees discuss needs to draw more employees into the wastewater and water treatment industry and training requirements for these new employees at the meeting. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger image.  

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
WEF Urges Passage of New Water Infrastructure Financing Legislation
Executive Director Eger calls for innovative technologies, management
On Feb. 28 Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Executive Director Jeff Eger joined with other industry leaders on Capitol Hill to urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass new legislation that would fund water infrastructure needs. Eger’s testimony, presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, highlighted the financial challenges facing water facilities around the country and the importance of providing support for these essential services.

During the first of a two-part hearing titled, Review of Innovative Financing Approaches for Community Water Infrastructure Projects, Eger and other water industry leaders helped educate the Subcommittee about the critical need for water infrastructure funding and potential financing tools to help local communities pay for the rising costs of providing clean and safe water. 

 
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Photo courtesy of Wendy Wilkerson, U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“Local governments are facing the worst financial circumstances in more than a generation,” Eger said. “If we are going to continue to provide essential services and make progress in water quality, we need to re-imagine the way we provide local water services. We need to encourage innovation---innovative technologies, innovative management approaches, and innovative financing.”

Specifically, WEF and the American Water Works Association voiced support for draft legislation to create the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a funding mechanism modeled after the highly successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. WIFIA would assist local governments with water infrastructure needs and leverage available federal dollars through low-interest funding that complements the already established State Revolving Fund.

“Innovative financing legislation provides an opportunity to demonstrate once again that clean water is a national priority, and that leaders here in Washington are sympathetic to the needs of local governments,” continued Eger. “Introduction and eventual passage of new water infrastructure financing legislation is an important step in recognizing the value of water and the need to support our essential water infrastructure.”

Eger also stressed the critical need to raise awareness about the value and importance of water among the general public. WEF hopes this will be achieved through its soon-to-be launched WATER'S WORTH IT™ campaign. “Over time we will be working with the other organizations at this table—and we hope with you—to help explain the value of water.”

The second of the two-part hearing is expected later this month.
— Melissa Jackson, WEF Highlights
WEF Introduces New Strategic Direction

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has announced a new strategic direction that emphasizes innovation, increasing awareness of the value of water, and a continued commitment to supporting the expertise of the water profession.

After a comprehensive planning effort, WEF created this strategic direction with a new vision, mission, and critical objectives to lead WEF into the future and guide efforts to meet the needs of members and the entire water profession:

  • WEF’s vision: WEF essential to water professionals around the world.
  • WEF’s mission: To provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide.
  • WEF’s critical objectives: Drive innovation in the water sector, enrich the expertise of global water professionals, and increase awareness of the value of water.

“I'm excited about this bold new strategic direction that we believe will resonate well with our current members and encourage others to join WEF or partner with us to advance innovations in water,” said WEF President Matt Bond. “We will be focusing on how water services are delivered and how resource recovery can benefit communities.” Read more in Bond’s February Highlights column, “WEF’s New Strategic Direction — A Decade in the Making but Well Worth the Wait.”

The new direction will capitalize on WEF’s strengths to champion initiatives that improve water services through innovative practices and holistic water management. The developing business plan will include initiatives supporting an energy-positive water sector, expanded and new relationships with organizations focused on technology innovation, upgraded and expanded content management and delivery of online services and products, and the launch of the WATER’S WORTH IT™ messaging campaign.

“We envision WEF as essential to water professionals around the world, and we are designing and aligning the programs, products, and services to deliver on each of our critical objectives,” said Jeff Eger, WEF executive director. “Our new direction sets the stage to dramatically advance the evolution of water resource management and support a movement toward an energy-positive water sector.”

Read the strategic direction document and view a video for more details. Send any comments or questions to WEFPresident@wef.org.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
And the Burke Award Goes to …
Utilities around the country receive safety award from WEF Member Associations

Each year, select utilities nationwide receive recognition for their safety programs from Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Member Associations (MAs) through the Burke Award. In 2011, 16 of WEF’s 46 MAs presented the Burke Award to a utility.

MAs look closely at nearby utilities to find those that portray exemplary safety practices. If an MA identifies a municipal or industrial wastewater facility with an active and effective safety program, it nominates the utility and presents the award to utility representatives at the MA’s annual meeting.

Established in 1982, the award honors George W. Burke Jr. for his years of service to the water environment and WEF. Burke was instrumental in developing WEF’s annual safety survey and assisting in the production of several safety training aids and promotional packets.

Nominations submitted by MAs include documentation illustrating safety programs and the facility’s safety record for the calendar year.

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Safety training events at the Union Sanitary District (USD; Union City, Calif.) are one reason it received the 2011 Burke Award from the California Water Environment Association (Sacramento). Photo courtesy of Michelle Powell, USD communications coordinator. Click for larger image.
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The New Jersey Water Environment Association (NJWEA; Atlantic City) has a process for how they choose a utility to receive the award. Each year on a rotating basis, one of the MA’s three sections, North, Central, or South, nominates a utility. Last May, the Central Section chose the Readington–Lebanon Sewerage Authority (RLSA; Whitehouse Station).

“We have had an exceptional safety record,” said Jill Plesnarski, NJWEA member and RLSA principal operator. “Over 20 years, accident-free.”

RLSA is staffed by five full-time and two part-time employees, and Plesnarski said she is proud of the quality of work the utility performs with limited resources.

“We all wear many hats getting the job done, and to do it safely while continually achieving full compliance is an achievement worth being recognized for,” Plesnarski said. “Small facilities often have less resources available to them [than larger utilities], but if the employees all work as a team and watch out for each other, we do just as well as the big guys. To have been recognized for our efforts is an honor.” 
Jill Plesnarski (center), Readington-Lebanon SA principal operator, receives the Burke Award from Blake Maloney (left), New Jersey Water Environment Association (NJWEA) immediate past president, and Joseph Bonaccoroso, NJWEA past president (right). Photo courtesy of Plesnarski. Click for larger image.


California conducts a thorough search
 
The California Water Environment Association (CWEA; Sacramento) also has a process for choosing a winner each year. The Safety Committee presents the award to the applicant with the highest score, said Lorri McAuliffe, CWEA awards program coordinator and president of Utilities Safety Services (Napa, Calif.).

In California, utilities fill out an application describing numerous aspects of their safety programs, including methods of communication, safety training, the process for identifying and correcting unsafe conditions, incident reviews, exceptional safety practices, and elements of the program addressing emergency response, hazardous materials, and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

“It is a very detailed and comprehensive award application and is designed to showcase those agencies who are deeply committed to the safety of their employees,” McAuliffe said.

In 2011, CWEA presented the award to the Union Sanitary District (USD; Union City, Calif.).

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Above, Larry Simmers (center), USD plant operations coach, receives the Burke Award from Paul Freedman, WEF past president, and Pei-Chin Low, CWEA past president. Photo courtey of Lola Dvorak, CWEA communications and membership manager.

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“This award recognizes our efforts to make safety the foundation of every workday,” said Mike Marzano, manager of USD’s Environmental Health and Safety Program. “USD’s management and employees have worked hard to create safety strategies that benefit the entire district.”

USD’s program includes comprehensive training, inspections, audits, visits to other exemplary facilities, and employee-designed safe-work strategies. It also facilitates communication among employees and management through monthly safety meetings, a safety blog, and safety inspections that incorporate employee input and observations, Marzano said.

New England seeks utilities devoted to keeping employees safe 
The New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA; Woburn, Mass.) attempts to find utilities that truly care about the safety of their employees, said Lenny Young, NEWEA Safety Committee chairman. And to make sure they see beyond the statistics, NEWEA members try to make site visits to each utility that has applied for the award, he added.

In 2011, NEWEA presented the award to the City of Leominster (Mass.) Water Pollution Control Facility because the facility had gone 25 years without a lost-time accident.

 

From left, Ed McCormick, WEF trustee, presents the Burke Award to Robert Chalifoux, City of Leominster (Mass.) Water Pollution Control Facility project manager, at the NEWEA annual conferene awards event in 2011. Photo courtesy of  Charles W. Tyler, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (Boston) program manager. Click for larger image.

And because NEWEA’s annual conference is held early in the year, it already has chosen the 2012 Burke Award recipient: the Town of Merrimack (N.H.) Wastewater Treatment Facility.

“In the past few years, they [the Merrimack staff members] have worked to reinvent and revitalize their [safety] program,” Young said. “This has been a huge success despite reduction in staff and budgetary restrictions. These changes have been embraced by the entire staff, as is evidenced by the 600-plus days, and counting, of no lost-time accidents.”

Pacific Northwest chooses utility that diversifies its safety practices 
The Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA; Hansen, Idaho) accepts nominations for the award online, and its Awards Committee chooses a winner. 

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The Merrimack (N.H.) Fire Department holds a fire extinguisher training event at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment Facility. Photos courtesy of Leo Gaudette, Merrimack Wastewater Treatment Facility chief operator. Click for larger images.
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In 2011, PNCWA presented the award to the Gresham (Ore.) Wastewater Treatment Plant “because of their excellent safety record, strict adherence to preventive best practices, including a consistent and robust schedule of well-defined safety training for all employees, and the systems in place to handle any accidents that might occur,” said Nan Cluss, PNCWA association manager. The utility’s safety program features a safety committee, monthly safety training sessions covering various topics from hazard communication to blood-borne pathogens, a monthly safety newsletter, and a yearly safety conference.

The Burke Award encourages utilities to establish and maintain a safety program, recognizing all employees at recipient organizations as integral to a successful program.  

Paul Proctor (center left), project manager, and Richard Ludlow (center right), assistant project manager, receive the Burke Award for the City of Gresham from Chris Browning (left), WEF Board member, and Andy O’Neill (right), Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA; Hansen, Idaho) president. Photo courtesy of Nan Cluss, PNCWA association manager. Click for larger image.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
WEF Member Shares Experience Volunteering for OPA in Myanmar

Woodie Muirhead, operations specialist in the Honolulu office of Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member, volunteers for Opening Possibilities Asia (OPA). Muirhead had visited Myanmar many times before learning about WEF creative services specialist Jessica Rozek’s volunteer work in the area from the WEF Highlights article “Making a Difference: WEF Employee Takes an Environmental Vacation.” Rozek’s work at a school in Mandalay, Myanmar (formerly Burma), prompted Muirhead to contact her about volunteering at the school as well. Muirhead sat down to discuss his volunteer experience.

Also, don’t miss the article in the March WE&T, “On the road to Mandalay: Accepting the World Water Monitoring Challenge,” which details water quality testing for children at the school using World Water Monitoring Challenge kits.

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Woodie Muirhead (center) looks at the chlorine residual in the drinking water after adding household bleach to one of the drinking water tanks with U Nandaka (right), one of the administrators for the Buddhist monastic school in Mandalay where Muirhead performed volunteer work. Photo courtesy of Muirhead. Click for larger image.

Highlights: How did you learn about the opportunity to do more in the country? 
Woodie: After visiting Myanmar several times over 8 years, some Myanmar friends took me to visit a Buddhist monastic school in Mandalay. After visiting the school, I recalled a WEF Highlights article about Jessica Rozek doing work at a school in Mandalay. I contacted Jessica upon returning home and learned that it was the same school. I asked how I could get involved in the school. Jessica and Margaret Mahoney, OPA executive director, offered me the opportunity to get involved with OPA. Our first trip to Myanmar together was in January 2011. 

Highlights: What did the children learn? 
Woodie: In January 2011, we conducted World Water Monitoring Challenge training for a class of 15-year-old students. When we returned in July 2011, some of those students had become teachers.

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Education in Myanmar is essentially rote learning from government textbooks; there is virtually no hands-on, practical education. We are providing practical water quality science for the students, teachers, and staff. As an example, I asked some of the staff if they were familiar with the Periodic Table of the Elements. To my surprise, they started reciting it! I might have 20 elements committed to memory, but certainly not the entire table.

Despite their knowledge, they had never had an opportunity to apply it. We showed them how to practically apply it by calculating how much bleach to add to the drinking water tanks for proper disinfection. When the chlorine residual matched our estimate from the calculation, they saw the value of the Periodic Table.

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Students and teachers in Mandalay, Myanmar use World Water Monitoring Challenge kits to learn that acidity alone is not a good indicator of drinking water quality. Participants tested local waterways including the polluted local urban stream used by nearby residents above. Photos courtesy of OPA. Click for larger images.

Highlights : What were some of the most important tools needed for this work? 
Woodie: Though we observed many potential sources of contamination in the water systems, we needed to conduct bacteriological tests of the water to determine if the systems were indeed contaminated. The only previous testing was several years ago by the Myanmar government, immediately after well construction.

We brought bacteria test vials with us but had to make many field decisions and adaptations. For example, we constructed a water-bath incubator onsite using a metal pot and an aquarium heater. When the aquarium heater failed to operate properly, the samples were incubated around our waists for 24 hours. It makes for an uncomfortable night’s sleep and provides tremendous motivation for figuring out how to build a proper incubator.   

Highlights: What were your favorite experiences? 
Woodie: My favorite experience is actually my biggest challenge. I refer to it as “the urban legend of pH 7.” It is a common belief in Mandalay that pH is the most important parameter for drinking water quality and that water with a pH of 7 means it is safe to drink. I encounter it on every visit and continuously try to find new ways to change this belief.

My fondest memory is unrelated to the work I am doing. While assessing the water system at a rural school north of Mandalay, I heard singing coming from one of the bamboo-thatched classrooms. When I peeked in, I saw Margaret and Lwin Oo, another OPA volunteer, teaching the students to sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” When we left the school, I saw a little girl in the distance merrily skipping her way up a hill to her village singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I think of that little girl every day. In my heart I hope it portends the future health and happiness of the Myanmar people. 

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Margaret Mahoney, Opening Possibilities Asia (OPA) executive director, and Lwin Oo, OPA volunteer and Mandalay native, teach “Mary had a Little Lamb” to students at a rural school near Mandalay. Photo courtesy of Muirhead. Click for larger image.

Highlights: Do you plan to volunteer in the future? If so, what are your plans? 
Woodie: In Myanmar, the concept of volunteerism is referred to as time donation. I have donated time on three separate visits over the past 12 months. The most recent visit was January 2012. Each visit has resulted in improvements to the water systems at three schools, but it is a slow and deliberate process. There is much to do, and we all plan to return in the future. 

Highlights: What do you hope that Myanmar residents gain from OPA? 
Woodie: We are fortunate to live in a country where we can drink from any faucet, eat in any restaurant, and swim in almost any waterbody with minimal risk of getting sick. I believe that every citizen of the world, regardless of his or her country, deserves the same good fortune. The schools OPA is involved with not only provide free education to about 10,000 students but also provide a free clinic for the surrounding community. Students and staff, as well as people outside the schools are now asking how to protect drinking water.  

Highlights: Do you recommend that others get involved?  
Woodie: As water quality professionals, we all have something to contribute, whether at home or abroad. How we contribute is a personal decision. I admire the many volunteers at WEF who improve the quality of our technical resource material, organize workshops, and share their knowledge through presentations and articles. Their involvement contributes significantly to our work. The success we have in Myanmar has a lineage that includes many water quality professionals worldwide.

Learn More About OPA and Get Involved

Opening Possibilities Asia (OPA) is an apolitical organization working to develop sustainable, replicable programs that bolster the infrastructure of nongovernmental schools in Myanmar. By working with the existing civil society, OPA provides programs that promote education, health and sanitation, and environmental responsibility. As these programs expand, networks among Myanmar communities and schools grow, which helps improve opportunities of Myanmar citizens.

Margaret Mahoney, OPA executive director, and Jessica Rozek, a Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) employee and OPA volunteer, have been working in Myanmar for several years. Through their work, they have helped train teachers and improve sanitation practices. They also identified a need for better access to safe drinking water. Based on these needs, OPA’s priority has been to make improvements to the schools’ drinking water systems.

For more information about OPA, send e-mail to OPAinMandalay@gmail.com

— Woodie Muirhead, Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Achieving That Emerald Status
NRDC provides new metrics for green infrastructure and stormwater practices
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During the past decade, green infrastructure has gained more prominence in the United States. In the 2011 report Rooftops to Rivers II: Green strategies for controlling stormwater and combined sewer overflows, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC; New York) highlighted 14 cities (see the full list at the end of this article) in North America with stellar green infrastructure programs. NRDC developed its list using a six-point “Emerald City scale.”

“The Emerald City metrics is new for this report,” said Jon Devine, senior attorney for the Water Program at NRDC and one of the authors of the report. “We felt that the programs in a number of communities have matured so much that we were able to identify elements that make them successful.”

NRDC has been studying pollution from stormwater runoff and solutions via green infrastructure for more than a decade, Devine said. NRDC used that experience to help create the list. The organization also shared its metrics with various green infrastructure practitioners to get their feedback.

A Kansas City, Mo., rain garden is one of the green infrastructure strategies to handle stormwater that helps cities gain rank on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Emerald Cities scale.” Photo courtesy of Lynn Hinkle, ASTRA Enterprises (Kansas City, Mo.). Click for larger image.

The Emerald City scale includes

  • developing a long-term green infrastructure plan;
  • developing and enforcing a strong retention standard for stormwater;
  • requiring the use of green infrastructure to reduce or manage runoff from some portion of the existing impervious surfaces;
  • providing incentives for residential and commercial private-party use of green infrastructure;
  • providing guidance or other affirmative assistance to accomplish green infrastructure; and
  • ensuring dedicated funding sources for green infrastructure.

Only one city on the list, Philadelphia, meets every metric in the criteria.

“Philadelphia certainly has been a leader in embracing green infrastructure,” Devine said. “But we view all of these cities as leaders.”


Putting conservation first
 
Another leader is Aurora, Ill., which meets four of the metrics on the Emerald City scale. Located in the suburbs of Chicago, Aurora is the second-most populous city in the state. According to the Rooftops to Rivers report, Aurora has a combined sewer system that dates back to the 1800s, but the city has spent more than $200 million to reduce combined sewer overflows and improve stormwater conveyance. In 2009, the city began a “stormwater infrastructure project designed to provide a more comprehensive, integrated approach to citywide sustainability planning,” according to the report.

Aurora adheres to the Kane County Stormwater Management Ordinance, and Kane/DuPage Soil and Water Conservation District helps it obtain its stormwater runoff goals. Aurora has a memorandum of understanding with the district whereby the district examines construction projects for the city before and during construction.

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The City of Aurora Green Infrastructure Implementation Project was designed to help improve water quality in the Fox River. One of the green infrastructure best management practices installed was the Rivers Edge Park stormwater wetland bioswale to improve water quality of runoff. Photo courtesy of the City of Aurora Public Works /Engineering Division. Click for larger image.  
"We perform construction plan review and site inspections to ensure projects meet our technical standards when it comes to erosion and sediment control measures on construction sites,” said Kelsey Musich, resource conservationist at the Soil and Water Conservation District. “We’ve reviewed and inspected about 553 construction sites for the City of Aurora in the past 11 years.”  
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These projects included making stormwater improvements in parking lots, naturalizing two parks, and performing shoreline stabilization along the Fox River at the city’s Veterans Memorial Island.

Musich said the district also is responsible for making sure these sites are in compliance with local, state, and federal water quality and Clean Water Act permits. This has helped reduce the effect of stormwater runoff from these sites into the Fox River, which flows through downtown Aurora.

In 2006, the district presented the City of Aurora with the Dedication to Preservation of Natural Resources Award to applaud the city’s conservation efforts.  

Identifying obstacles and payoffs 
Though the number of successful green infrastructure programs is growing, Devine said NRDC sees the biggest challenge as the lack of strong federal regulatory drivers to ensure that all communities are committed to green infrastructure.

The City of Aurora also installed five rain gardens along Spring Street to improve the water quality of stormwater runoff. Photo courtesy of the City of Aurora Public Works /Engineering Division. Click for larger image. 


This is why NRDC recommends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create these types of regulations, Devine said. NRDC encourages EPA in its Rooftop to Rivers report to “reform the minimum requirements applicable to urban and suburban runoff sources.” The authors argue that existing EPA regulations for sources of runoff pollution, designed more than 20 years ago, “have not been implemented in a particularly rigorous way.”

NRDC believes that EPA’s proposed stormwater rule could be a possible solution. EPA has stated that it will announce a schedule for release of the proposed rule on March 16.

“The rule has the potential to require infrastructure, such as big buildings and parking lots, [to] meet certain criteria in regard to the amount of stormwater retained onsite,” Devine said. “If EPA sets a strong national standard, it will impact new and reconstructed sites.”

As a result, even more communities will be able to take advantage of the benefits of green infrastructure, Devine said. “Green infrastructure technologies can, in many cases, save money when compared with more conventional stormwater and overflow techniques,” he said. “In addition, these [green infrastructure] techniques bring to these communities a host of things you don’t get from conventional infrastructure, such as green spaces, improved air quality, reduced heating costs thanks to green roofs, and storage for water that can be reused.”

— LaShell Stratton‒Childers, Highlights

The ‘Emerald City’ List

The Natural Resources Defense Council (New York) dubbed 14 cities as “Emerald Cities” in its report, Rooftops to Rivers II: Green strategies for controlling stormwater and combined sewer overflows. The report also provides the six-point “Emerald City scale. Only one city, Philadelphia, met every metric on the scale. The full list of cities and their scores are listed below.

  • Philadelphia (6 points)
  • Milwaukee (5 points)
  • New York City (5 points)
  • Portland, Ore. (5 points)
  • Syracuse, N.Y. (5 points)
  • Washington, D.C. (5 points)
  • Aurora, Ill. (4 points)
  • Toronto (4 points)
  • Chicago (3 points)
  • Kansas City, Mo. (3 points)
  • Nashville, Tenn. (3 points)
  • Seattle (3 points)
  • Pittsburgh (1 point)
  • Detroit metro area and Rouge River Watershed in Michigan  (1 point)
 
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Rooftops to Rivers II lists 14 U.S. cities as “Emerald Cities.” Photo courtesy of Natural Resources Defense Council (New York). Click for larger image.

 

UNICEF Mobilizes Thousands of Volunteers for Tap Project
Restaurants and volunteers join to raise funds for water and sanitation projects

What better way to celebrate World Water Week, held March 19 to 25, and United Nations’ World Water Day, held March 22, than to donate money to improve children’s access to clean water and proper sanitation? This is the thought behind the annual UNICEF (New York) Tap Project campaign that began in 2007 in New York City. 

Funds support projects in Togo, Vietnam, Mauritania, and Cameroon
For the campaign, participating restaurants ask patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually drink for free. All of the funds collected support UNICEF’s efforts in more than 100 countries to improve access to safe water and sanitation in schools and communities, and to promote safe hygiene practices, explained Hazel Cobb, U.S. Fund for UNICEF senior public relations officer. This year’s funds will support four areas, she said.

“The money raised will be used to support and help expand UNICEF's existing water and sanitation programs in Togo, Vietnam, Mauritania, and Cameroon,” Cobb said. “These four countries were chosen based on the current water and sanitation needs of the population and UNICEF program funding needs.”

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0225/Josh Estey

Students wash their hands with soap and water at Ban Pho Primary School in Bac Han District, Vietnam. The UNICEF-supported school promotes hygiene education. Click for larger image. 

In Vietnam, the Community-Led Total Sanitation project is sponsored by UNICEF to educate citizens about healthier sanitation practices. In Cameroon, communities are trained to build and use biosand filters, which use several layers of gravel and fine sand to remove contaminants from drinking water. In Togo, water and sanitation infrastructure, such as water tanks, hand-washing stations, and latrines, are provided to local schools; and in Mauritania, UNICEF installs new latrines in schools with separate facilities for girls and boys, according to UNICEF’s website.

Tallying the numbers
UNICEF’s goal is to reduce by half the number of people without access to safe water and basic sanitation by 2015. The Tap Project contributes to this goal because since it began, the program has raised more than $3 million. Last year alone, the campaign raised nearly $900,000, with 704 participating restaurants and 2442 registered volunteers, Cobb said.

“Corporate sponsorships have brought in the most money for the UNICEF Tap Project since its inception in 2007,” Cobb said. This is followed by donations at participating restaurant and at volunteer-held events, but all sources are important elements of the program, she explained.

Participating restaurants utilize UNICEF’s resources
UNICEF provides participating restaurants with a printed and mailed kit that includes informational brochures and fact sheets, as well as a lanyard, volunteer badge, and badge holder.

Restaurants that want to participate this year must sign up by March 12. Beginning March 26, restaurants will submit the amounts they raised to UNICEF.

“Participating restaurants are encouraged to promote the UNICEF Tap Project in their communities, conduct trainings with their wait staffs, display table tents and bill stuffers that describe [the campaign], and invite patrons to donate,” Cobb said. Find a participating restaurant at www.tapproject.org/restaurants/.

Volunteers recruit restaurants and host events
UNICEF also relies on individual volunteers to spread the word about the campaign and raise funds. Volunteers can choose how much time they are able to provide and choose which activities to participate in, including hosting events, recruiting restaurants, and promoting the campaign.

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Volunteer activities include social media promotion; personal donations and fundraising with a team; hosting small events, such as bake sales, dinner parties, yard sales, and lemonade stands; hosting larger events, such as happy-hour fundraisers, water trivia nights, silent auctions, benefit concerts, and water walks and runs; and recruiting and supporting restaurants.

Volunteers receive electronic or hard-copy kits with background information on the issue, customizable documents and talking points, such as press releases and radio scripts, and tips needed for the different volunteer activities.

Last year, 85 events were scheduled. Volunteers have made videos of their events, created their own public service announcements about the campaign, and secured local news and radio coverage of the campaign, Cobb added. In Chicago, a group of volunteers secured a proclamation from then-Mayor Richard M. Daley supporting the goals of the UNICEF Tap Project, recruited 86 restaurants to participate, and hosted a launch event that raised nearly $6500. A teacher and her class of third-grade students in Needham, Mass., learned about water issues and recruited more than 20 restaurants for the campaign, and their school held an assembly about the world water crisis, Cobb said.

“There is no deadline to register as a volunteer,” Cobb said. “The U.S. Fund for UNICEF encourages volunteer participation before, during, and after World Water Week. Some volunteers continue to host events throughout the spring.”

Anyone can make a donation anytime to the campaign online at www.tapproject.org/donate or by mobile phone. To donate $10 by phone, text “TAP” to 864233 (UNICEF).  

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0820/Jan Grarup

A child washes his hands at a pump in Central African Republic village of Mbiti. UNICEF is supporting safe water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions in this area to improve health. Click for larger image.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
What's stopping direct potable reuse?

What is the biggest challenge to direct potable use of reclaimed or recycled water? Some of the most common reasons that technologists and politicians give are huge capital investment, public perception, lack of demand, and fear of trace organic compounds and microconstituents. These reasons may be the specific drawbacks for particular projects, but are they the overarching concerns? Could the real issues be lack of trust on one hand and far too much trust on the other?

The lack of trust stems from public sector ownership, operation, and maintenance of the utilities producing and supplying the reclaimed water. Despite the fact that drinking water never stops (with rare exception) and wastewater is gone with a flush, the belief persist that city, state, and federal employees are overpaid underperformers. In the public’s mind, the question becomes, “do these government workers know what they are doing, and can we trust them to do it well?”

Perhaps the bigger problem is too much trust in our water supply. Public water systems have made themselves into the invisible industry by continually providing unrestricted water supplies to our homes and businesses. (The irony is how concretely this proves false any doubts about utility performance, in general.) But now, since “weird weather” is the norm, natural water supply patterns aren’t the same. Having enough water from natural cycles is no longer a safe bet year after year. Water supplies can’t provide what isn’t available, but reclaimed water always is available.

Craig Riley is reuse program lead at the Washington State Department of Health and chairman of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Water Reuse Committee. 

What do you think?

Take the poll below to share your opinion. The results will appear in the May issue of Water Environment & Technology.

  

 

WE&T also is seeking your solutions to reuse challenges. The WE&T editors will choose several submissions for publication in the May 2012 issue.

You’ll only have 100 words to share your Perspective, so craft your thoughts carefully. (Want an example? Visit the January 2012 edition of Perspectives.)

Send your solutions to sspicer@wef.org by March 23. Also, please include your name, title, company affiliation, and a photo headshot.