Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011DC133B

Metropolitan Washington Public Officials Water Leadership Program

Institute: District of Columbia
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $12,452 Total Non-Federal Funds: $26,967

Principal Investigators: Howard Ways, Catherine Shrier

Abstract: Area water providers and governments have elected or appointed new leadership who will be faced with several critical decisions on water-related issues including: - replacement of aging and failing water infrastructure, and associated financing issues; - new technologies and new requirements for water and wastewater retreatment in accordance with regulatory requirements such as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake River and its tributaries (including the Potomac River and Anacostia River); emerging contaminants and their impacts on drinking water; - replacement of older water infrastructure systems such as lead pipes and combined sewer overflow with healthier, safer water and wastewater systems, and associated financial issues; - development of rain gardens, infiltration basins, and other green building techniques, and associated regulations; - management of water resources for recreation and habitat, and associated educational opportunities; - development of education, communications, and outreach strategies, and funding of research to address water issues; - job creation and environemtnal equity issues associated with various policies, programs, and projects. Area water and wastewater service providers, agencies, and policymakers have also expressed a strong interest in developing the District of Columbia as a green city providing leading programs on green urban infrastructure, while redefining the meaning of the word green and sustainability within the context of a economically and ethnically diverse urban area. There have also been increasing efforts to address water-related issues on a regional or watershed basis, involving coordination and collaboration among multiple municipalities and local governments, water and wastewater service providers, and with other stakeholders, including federal agencies, water advocacy organizations, and business sectors. Many of the area water organizations have new public officials in key decision making roles, including appointed water and sewer board officials at DC Water and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission; new elected officials in DC City Council and Mayors Office and other communities in the Metropolitan Area, with new appointed staff supporting those elected officials. While education programs often focus on school-aged children, universities, or a general public audience, the development of effective water education programs for public officials outside of the context of supporters or detractors of specific policies and projects is not widely addressed. As new public officials step into leadership roles on water-related decisions, there is a need to communicate and build an understanding of current physical, natural, and political infrastructure and organizational cultures that govern how water is managed and protected; emerging issues and potential ways to address those issues. Particularly as water utilities, water agencies and other municipal, regional, and federal agencies are encouraged to work in a more collaborative manner, it is critical to provide public officials with an opportunity to gain a common understanding of water issues facing the region, and to network with each other and work together to explore these issues before being faced with decisions in the context of a public hearing.