Graham Sustainability Institute

Managing Public Water Infrastructure with Resource Constraints

A number of post-industrial municipalities in the Great Lakes region face the challenge of infrastructure investment and re-investment while simultaneously grappling with shrinking populations, diminishing resources, and reduced capacity.Upgrading water infrastructure is a nation-wide issue. However, communities with shrinking populations have the additional problem of determining how to manage infrastructure that exceeds their current and projected future capacity needs. These communities must face these challenging issues with fewer resources and under-resourced departments. How might these communities manage and plan their water infrastructure systems for the public good in the midst of these conditions?

This project identified examples of strategies that can be employed by communities facing the combined challenges of excess capcity and resource challenges when reshaping their water systems to meet current and projected usage and population needs. Informed by an advisory group representing professional associations and regional water infrastructure organizations, this project employed a focus-group approach to identify the most important issues, barriers, challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. 

Perspectives from municipal elected and appointed officials, rate payer groups, and water infrastructure practitioners experienced in working with these communities, identified key issues or barriers that were deemed most important to consider. Working with the advisory group we identified a group of case studies that addressed these key issues:

Lack of political will for regional cooperation Financing and funding Giving voice to the public Affordability and assistance Public education
Cincinnati, OH and Boone Co., KY: Interstate wholesale water purchase Madison, WI: Generating Revenue for Work on Private Property Philadelphia, PA: Tiered Assistance Program Philadelphia, PA: Tiered Assistance Program Philadelphia, PA: Tiered Assistance Program
Lansing, MI Board of Water & Light and Westside Water: Two-way purchase agreement Cincinnati, OH and Boone Co., KY: Interstate wholesale water purchase Philadelphia, PA: Water Rate Board Philadelphia, PA: Water Rate Board Philadelphia, PA: Water Rate Board
Mid-Michigan Water Consortium: Joint purchasing to reduce costs Lansing, MI Board of Water & Light and Westside Water: Two-way purchase agreement   Cincinnati, OH and Boone Co., KY: Interstate wholesale water purchase  
  Mid-Michigan Water Consortium: Joint purchasing to reduce costs   Mid-Michigan Water Consortium: Joint purchasing to reduce costs  
      Lansing, MI Board of Water & Light and Westside Water: Two-way purchase agreement