In February, the President introduced the administration’s infrastructure plan, which includes financing and regulatory streamlining mechanisms for water projects. Here in Washington, DC, Congress is weighing several proposals to rehabilitate and expand the nation’s water infrastructure through existing and new programs. We welcome these proposals, but regardless of whether they move forward, water agencies continue to modernize and improve their systems. In this issue of Municipal Water Leader, we highlight successful water projects and the people building them.
This year, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) is commemorating the 10th anniversary of its Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), the world’s largest potable reuse project. The GWRS provides a critical source of supply to nearly 2.5 million people in Southern California. Through its commitment to infrastructure investment, OCWD has helped stabilize the region’s water supply.
OCWD is currently expanding its GWRS facility to reach its ultimate production capacity of 130 million gallons per day. We talk with OCWD General Manager Mike Markus about how to get big infrastructure projects done. He explained, “It takes a lot of stakeholder involvement early on in the project. You need the support of your elected officials to move forward. And, for the GWRS, because it was recycled water that people would ultimately be drinking, we started very early on with our public outreach.”
OCWD is not the only district thinking big. We also speak to Denver Water’s Jeff Martin, who is overseeing the expansion of Gross Reservoir. The project involves raising Gross Dam by an additional 131 feet to increase its storage capacity to 119,000 acre‑feet.
For Denver Water, forward momentum on the project progress has been built on relationships. Mr. Martin explained “Projects like this do not move forward unless an organization has a strong, authentic commitment to the environment and is a good steward of the resources that we are entrusted with. Apart from that, a project like this requires stakeholder collaboration. We understand that what we do has an effect not only on the environment, but also on the social realm around our watershed.”
In addition, we hear from Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, who discusses recent bipartisan legislation that he has introduced to help finance water projects. He nailed the issue on the head: “Water infrastructure investment needs to be a priority. It is time for leaders across the country to be realistic about our water problems and commit to funding this vital building block.”
Finally, we highlight some great milestones in storage and flood control projects in Chicago, Kansas City, and North Texas. They are a testament to effective partnerships and innovative financing and emblematic of the strong leadership needed to renew and expand our nation’s water infrastructure.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com