Guests: Melissa Kelly | Staff Director & Attorney | Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR) &
Caroline Koch | Water Policy Director | WaterNow Alliance
Category: 🔬 Research | Water Infrastructure
Podcast’s Essential Bites:
[16:46] MK: "Our water systems are facing ever increasing stressors, [...] whether it's urban flooding, which is expected to increase by 45% by the end of the century, or the historic drought that we're experiencing [...] in the Southwest. And so communities all over the nation are looking for ways to build resiliency to climate change. And that's where localized water infrastructure (LWI) comes in."
[17:15] MK: "When we say [localized water infrastructure] we mean distributed systems that are located either at or near the point of use and they offer integrated, equitable and adaptive solutions for communities that are looking to build this resiliency, by supplementing and extending the life of conventional centralized water infrastructure. We group localize water infrastructure into four broad categories: water use efficiency, reuse and other alternative non-potable sources, green infrastructure and privately owned lateral line replacements."
[18:27] CK: "Over the past 20 years, for example, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has financed its turf replacement incentive program, a form of localized infrastructure, to the tune of $260 million. And through these investments in these decentralized strategies of the turf replacement, they have converted over 4,600 acres of turf to waterwise landscaping, and save nearly 460,000 acre feet of water. And that 4,600 acres represents about 40% of the nonfunctional turf in Southern Nevada's surface area. And the water savings is 160,000 acre feet or so, more than the whole of Nevada has the right to use per year."
[23:48] CK: "In urban settings water infrastructure [...] needs to perform three basic functions: to provide safe, clean and reliable drinking water, to move that wastewater away from homes and businesses and treat it properly and safely reclaim it or discharge it, and to manage stormwater to limit flooding and related damages and, again, ensure that it safely reclaimed or discharged without harm to the public health or water bodies. So the centralized options that we're all most familiar with can perform these functions, [...] but [...] localized infrastructure can serve the same functions by providing water supply, protecting water quality, and managing stormwater. So to build the case to add these options on to your water infrastructure portfolio, are these options really supplement and extend the life of these conventional options."
[31:01] MK: "There are misconceptions regarding limitations on the use of bonds to finance projects on private property, because that's outside municipal or utility ownership and control. There's also the traditional utility business model that can be at odds with reduced water usage that would result from water saving strategies. And that's because water rates aren't decoupled from revenue in a lot of cases. And then there could be legal and policy barriers. And those can be in the form of existing regulations that might directly prohibit or serve as disincentives to implementation of LWI or it can even just be the absence of regulations and policies. And this can indirectly limit implementation because it leaves localized water infrastructure out of the conversation completely."
Report: "Pathways for Localized Water Infrastructure"