Last week, NACWA partnered with 27 NGO’s and 14 Federal Agencies to support the Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP). Groundwork USA, Wilderness Inquiry, and the Society of Municipal Arborists may seem to be unusual bedfellows, but NACWA shares the common belief that the best way to maintain and restore critical urban waters and watersheds is by working together and leveraging our organizations’ respective skills and resources. By signing the NGO statement of support, the signatories acknowledge that green space, urban forestry, sustainable infrastructure and watershed partnerships are tools to improving water quality, recreation, and resilience in our urban communities. Under the program, EPA awards small grants for projects improving urban watersheds in areas that align with the designated UWFP locations and provides ambassadors who facilitate and act as the “glue” between the involved parties in each location. The UWFP is overseen by the White Council on Environmental Management and is composed of federal agencies including EPA, the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).
NACWA public agency members are involved in a number of the programs in the 19 designated urban waters locations. In fact, all but two of the UWFP locations are in NACWA member communities, and key members were highlighted during last week’s workshop, including the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. One of the most compelling presentations of the day came from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) who presented on the Greater Philadelphia Area / Delaware River Watershed UWFP location and the efforts of NACWA member Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA). The NJDEP and CCMUA have worked doggedly to launch the Camden Collaborative Initiative to help revitalize vacant lands, use some of those spaces for stormwater management to decrease flooding, and restore riverfront access. To quote the presenter, Frank McLaughlin: CCMUA and their Executive Director Andy Kricun, are “serving through leadership” and “leading beyond the plant”.
Seeking out these types of innovative partnerships with other local governments and regulators is another way for clean water utilities to successfully engage the community and impart additional co-benefits while accomplishing core functions. NACWA is proud to support and promote the continued collaborative work of our members through initiatives like the UWFP!