NJ Leaders Take First Step Toward Stormwater Infrastructure Revamp

May 22, 2014

New Jersey Future and its partners convened a group of New Jersey leaders to develop steps to begin the work of transforming New Jersey’s aging urban water infrastructure. NJ Future Executive Director Chris Sturm speaks at the convening Tuesday in Jersey City.

The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, New Jersey Future, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation this week convened a group of New Jersey leaders from water utilities, environmental organizations, economic and community development organizations, the private sector and local, state and federal government to develop and issue an action agenda to transform New Jersey’s aging urban water infrastructure.

Michele Byers, New Jersey Conservation Foundation executive director, and Debbie Mans, executive director NY/NJ Baykeeper.
George Hawkins of DC Water shares his experience leading Washington DC into a new era of stormwater management, CSO control and wastewater treatment.

The convening, held in Jersey City, was informed by research conducted by New Jersey Future and Rutgers University, which focused on the 21 New Jersey municipalities that have combined sewer systems (CSOs) that discharge raw sewage and rainwater into streets, rivers and homes during even routine rain storms.

“Urban water infrastructure improvements present a significant opportunity for New Jersey’s cities and waterways,” said Chris Daggett, president at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. “Investments lay the groundwork for future economic growth, community resiliency and improved environmental health and can be met in the broader context of urban revitalization.”

Attendees shared their experiences and thoughts about how to begin the work to upgrade the inadequate water systems and add green infrastructure projects, such as urban parks, green roofs and rain gardens, in the cities to alleviate flooding.

They also heard from experts from cities which have faced the same issue. Roxanne Qualls, a former mayor of Cinncinati, George Hawkins, general manager of DC Water, and Jeff Hughes, director of the Environmental Finance Center at University of North Carolina, shared their experience helping cities upgrade the systems, with an emphasis on innovative and sustainable solutions.

Illustration: Combined sewer overflows during dry and wet weather. Courtesy of EPA

“New Jersey’s CSO municipalities are among the earliest urban places in New Jersey, often with very high populations densities — for example, Hoboken has over 50,000 people in one square mile. They include six of the 13 New Jersey municipalities with more than 75,000 people, and the four most populous municipalities: Newark,Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth.” — From NJ Future’s “Ripple Effects” report.

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Stay tuned for more details about this effort from New Jersey Future and the Dodge Foundation in the coming months.