2011 Prize Winners
The U.S. Water Alliance is proud to announce the 2011 U.S. Water Prize winners. Each winner has been recognized for their watershed-based models and programs that advance our country toward greater water sustainability. “These five water champions reflect the diversity of America and set a shining example for innovating, integrating, and collaborating from coast to coast to sustain America’s most precious liquid asset,” explained U.S. Water Alliance President Ben Grumbles. U.S. Water Prize winners by alphabetical order are:
- The City of Los Angeles
- Milwaukee Water Council
- National Great Rivers Research & Education Center
- New York City Department of Environmental Protection
- Pacific Institute
The City of Los Angeles’ Water Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) started with a simple yet ambitious vision: City Departments working with the community to manage water resources holistically. This innovative approach led the City down a seven-year path toward a plan for Los Angeles’ future. The IRP integrates supply, conservation, recycling and runoff management with wastewater facilities planning through a regional watershed approach, enlisting the public in the planning and design development process.
Departing from traditional single-purpose planning efforts, the IRP resulted in greater efficiency in water resource management and multiple citywide benefits, including energy and cost savings, reduced dependence on imported water, reusing stormwater and conserving drinking water.
Rainwater harvesting was foundational, identifying local solutions as pillars for sustainability—resulting in a downspout program that will be expanded citywide.
Transforming the City’s water footprint is the Elmer Avenue green street project that includes an infiltration gallery that captures runoff and recharges it underground. Neighbors embrace the bioswales with drought-tolerant native plants and permeable surfaces that adorn this appealing greenspace.
The South Los Angeles Wetlands Park will convert an asphalt/concrete rail yard into a 4.5-acre stormwater treatment wetland habitat that captures and treats pollutants and also will include a pocket park—another win-win for the community.
The IRP also produced a far-reaching Low Impact Development ordinance and a 20% reduction in water use due to conservation incentives and education. Los Angeles’ water consumption today is the same as it was 30 years ago despite one million more users. As implementation continues, the City keeps stakeholders engaged and involved—putting Los Angeles on the path to becoming the greenest and cleanest big City in America while ensuring a waterwise and sustainable future.
When the Milwaukee Water Council formed in 2007, it was said that the strength of Milwaukee’s collective water cluster made it a World Water Hub. Today, thanks in large part to the work of the council, the Milwaukee region is now being mentioned alongside a handful of cities known to be world leaders in water technology. The Milwaukee Water Council has worked to make it clear that water is valuable, endeavoring to raise awareness that water is an essential asset for the community and its economic development.
By harnessing the power of an existing industry cluster (more than 130 companies), linking a rapidly expanding academic research community and convening some of the nation’s brightest and most energetic professionals, the Milwaukee Water Council is turning the Milwaukee region’s focus toward the critical role of assuring clean water on a global level. This is accomplished by consistently bringing together all parties to leverage collaboration around advancing water technology. This includes the development of a hub built around education and the establishment of a freshwater school, research and development, and water-related industry.
The accomplishments of the Council are many in its short three years. For example:
- Milwaukee has been named a member of the UN Global Compact Cities Programme—the first and only city reaching this status for its action towards freshwater;
- Milwaukee has become the North American regional headquarters of the Alliance for Water Stewardship global initiative;
- And Milwaukee has become the first community to evaluate its impact on the water cycle through the water impact index.
The National Great Rivers Research & Education Center (NGRREC) is the result of a unique partnership formed by Lewis and Clark Community College, the University of Illinois and the Illinois Natural History Survey. The Center’s mission is to advance the nation’s understanding of great rivers, their floodplains and watersheds for the purpose of sustaining the plant, animal and human communities that depend upon them. Since 2002, NGRREC has developed programs involving a myriad of partner institutions, engaged hundreds of volunteers, thousands of middle and high school students and more than 150 college students through its annual intern program.
NGRREC is located in the newly constructed Jerry F. Costello Confluence Field Station on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, adjacent to the Melvin Price Locks and Dam in Alton, Ill.
The 30,000-square-foot facility was opened in October and provides NGRREC with increased capacity to build upon its current efforts and address water issues on a national and international scale, Chapman said.
The field station is one of the most environmentally advanced facilities in the state, and provides a platform for NGRREC to educate others about sustainability initiatives. Through the Center’s education and outreach efforts, the facility’s numerous sustainable design features (onsite water treatment, wind/hydrokinetic power, solar lighting/heat, green roof, permeable pavement, etc.) are promoted on a regional and national level as a model for how resource compatible development and community awareness and empowerment can go hand-in-hand. NGRREC supports the use of green infrastructure as a critical element of comprehensive wastewater planning and conservation reuse.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is a City agency of nearly 6,000 employees that manages and conserves the City’s water supply; distributes more than one billion gallons of clean drinking water each day to 9 million New Yorkers and collects wastewater through a vast underground network of pipes, regulators, and pumping stations; and treats the 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater that New Yorkers produce each day in a way that protects the quality of New York Harbor. To achieve these mandates, DEP oversees one of the largest capital construction programs in the region. As the City agency responsible for New York City’s environment, DEP also regulates air quality, hazardous waste, and critical quality of life issues, including noise.
Though DEP has always been committed to achieving its many goals in the most sustainable way possible, over the past year the agency has established itself as a leader in sustainability. In early 2010, DEP appointed a Deputy Commissioner for Sustainability to implement PlaNYC, and make sustainability a core consideration for our agency. DEP has also assumed much of the energy planning for New York City, and it continues to regulate local sources of air, noise, and asbestos pollution. Now more than ever, the agency is focused on initiatives that complement and advance policies for water quality, energy conservation, air quality, land use, and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, and economic development and quality of life for all New Yorkers.
The Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif. has been called the most innovative and effective independent non-governmental organization in the field of water and sustainability, and co-founder and president Dr. Peter Gleick is considered by many the world’s leading expert, innovator, and communicator on freshwater resources. Over 24 years, the Institute has advanced the soft path to water, including conservation and efficiency solutions to water shortages; helped define and championed the human right to water; contributed to official water policy changes aimed at sustainability; done groundbreaking research on the impacts of climate change on freshwater resources; shown businesses efficient ways of operating that also protect customers, workers, communities, and the environment; created non-governmental coalitions that redefine standards on environmental issues and corporate social responsibility; and spun off a non-governmental coalition on environmental justice for water.