Inspiring Solutions: Modernizing New Jersey’s water systems an opportunity

August 4, 2014

Dodge Foundation President Chris Daggett and Environment Program Director Margaret Waldock want New Jersey communities to recognize the bright side of tackling the daunting challenge of modernizing the state’s outdated water systems.

“Stormwater can be our savior if we view New Jersey’s water infrastructure crisis as an opportunity to create the kinds of communities we want to live in — healthy, resilient, walkable places with tree-lined streets, green buildings, clean rivers and vibrant waterfronts,” the pair wrote in a blog on the challenges and opportunities related to the future of New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure.

Daggett and Waldock shared their thoughts in Inspiring Solutions, a blog series hosted by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread meant to spark conversation on the future resiliency of the state’s urban water supplies.

Also joining the conversation is Chris Sturm, Senior Director of State Policy at New Jersey Future; Peter Kasabach, Executive Director at New Jersey Future; Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer at Clean Water Fund; Debbie Mans, Executive Director at the NY/NJ Baykeeper; and Anthony Perno, Chief Executive Officer at Coopers Ferry Partnership.

The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread posed the following question to the contributors:

Most New Jersey cities have been underinvesting in their water infrastructure systems for decades – creating vulnerabilities that were exploited by Superstorm Sandy.  New Jersey’s oldest and all of its largest cities are relying on antiquated, aging water infrastructure that pollutes neighborhoods and rivers, and will ultimately pose a considerable barrier to economic prosperity and revitalization.

Simultaneously, a population shift is occurring, with people increasingly moving into the urban centers of the state. This presents an opportunity for cities to collaborate with public, private and nongovernmental partners on improving water infrastructure to meet this demand while also enhancing community resilience and spurring economic growth.

Given the challenges that New Jersey faces with aging infrastructure, socioeconomics and changing weather patterns, what do you see as the greatest opportunity to address New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure challenges in a financially constrained environment?

Their answers have provocative and timely implications — all responses can be viewed here:

This dialogue is part of Charting New Waters, a Johnson Foundation at Wingspread initiative dedicated to catalyzing new solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges. Charting New Waters brings together experts from across the public, private, and NGO sectors, as well as other stakeholders to focus on the operational, institutional and market-related challenges that our water and wastewater utilities need to overcome.

Inspiring Solutions, an online forum, is a microcosm of what The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is — a place to convene, share ideas, and find innovative solutions with sustained impact.

Above photo is courtesy of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.