At the Jersey Water Works annual conference, 42 organizational members of the collaborative offered a response to the crisis of New Jersey’s failing water infrastructure by committing publicly to take significant actions in 2019. These actions, ranging from new investments in water systems to innovative educational campaigns, offer a scope and breadth of initiatives that have not been attempted in New Jersey.
“The sheer variety of these commitments is an exciting example of the type of innovation that is happening here in New Jersey around water infrastructure. It takes all of us, with all our areas of expertise, to tackle a problem as complex as this,” said Mark Mauriello, director of environmental affairs and planning at Edgewood Properties and a co-chair of the Jersey Water Works steering committee. “At the end of 2019, the individuals and organizations who are committing today to these actions will have made a material difference to how well our water systems work, and in doing so will have contributed to the quality of life of virtually every New Jerseyan.”
“Our collaborative members are not ones to lead from behind; they are stepping up in very meaningful ways to improve our water systems and show true leadership,” said Jane Kenny, managing partner at Whitman Strategy Group and the steering committee’s co-chair. “It’s inspiring to see so many members voluntarily taking yet another step toward our goal of improving the state’s water infrastructure, and it shows once again that a united, committed group of people like the Jersey Water Works collaborative can accomplish great things.”
Among the organizations committing to action are the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, which has committed to reaching complete energy independence by 2020; the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, which, in partnership with CoLab Arts and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, has committed to installing a sculpture and interpretive signage along the Raritan River, crowdsourcing photos to tell the story of changes, including litter, invasive plants, and high water levels, and to plan restoration actions accordingly; and the Association of Environmental Authorities, which has committed to promoting jobs in the water sector through education, training and outreach.
Members also committed to investment of more than $375 million in upgrades to water and sewer mains and treatment plants; to installing acres of parks and plantings that will increase stormwater absorption and reduce flooding; to implementing a range of water affordability measures; and to providing multiple educational resources to help the public understand the importance of investing in water infrastructure.
The full list of commitments and the organizations behind them is available below.
Earlier at the conference, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe reassured attendees that water was one of the department’s top priorities, and that they were working on ways to address the challenges of funding infrastructure upgrades and to provide support for the development of robust asset management plans. She said they were paying particular attention to the problem of PFAS chemicals and were working to develop a framework to address this problem that she hopes will become a national model.
Conference keynote speaker Manny Teodoro, Ph.D., an expert on the topic of water affordability, praised New Jersey’s Water Quality Accountability Act, which he said will serve as a crucial national model. When the data the act requires is collected, he said, “we will know the full nexus of the relationship between cost, affordability, water quality, system performance, environmental quality and capital investment. We will be able to quantify the health and economic benefits of investment in water.”
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