Cities and towns are increasingly looking for new solutions to confront a daunting array of water management challenges. As drought accelerates across the Western United States, many communities are incentivizing residents to swap out turf grass for native landscaping. In other parts of the country, parks and other green infrastructure help absorb rainwater and prevent floods. And across all kinds of communities, utilities are expanding efforts to keep drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services affordable, and to engage all of their community members in their work.

These approaches are part of a “distributed” model of water infrastructure, that addresses water management throughout an entire community, supplementing and extending the life of conventional more centralized water systems. These strategies – which include water conservation, reuse, green infrastructure, and other consumer-focused initiatives – help secure water supplies, protect local environments, and keep water costs affordable. They can also create additional benefits, such as job creation, neighborhood greening, local economic development, and enhancements to public health.

WaterNow’s Project Accelerator provides bandwidth and support to help communities get these types of projects off the ground. Open to cities, towns, utilities, and other public entities with responsibility for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater, the Accelerator provides selected projects with about 250 hours of pro-bono support.

Support provided by Project Accelerator can include program design and management, policy and legal analysis, stakeholder outreach, communications strategy, data analysis, and sustainability expertise, depending on the goals of the community. The exact form of support varies along with communities’ own priorities, goals, challenges, and innovative strategies for solving water management challenges.

In Cleveland, Ohio, for instance, the Accelerator supported the implementation of the Water Champions program, a partnership between local non-profit CHN Housing Partners, the Cleveland Division of Water, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to better connect disadvantaged residents with affordability programs. Local Water Champions conduct grassroots engagement to better understand communities’ perspectives and priorities around water and sewer issues with the goal of eliminating barriers to participating in programs intended to ease financial burdens while ensuring access to water services for everyone. By the end of the Accelerator project, Water Champions had hosted over hosted over 50 listening session, and spoke with more than 300 community members – numbers that will continue to grow as the program continues.

In Evans, Colorado, WaterNow worked with Western Resource Advocates (WRA) and the City to develop an indoor water use efficiency program for low-income residents. Evans’s program is expected to replace more than 60 high water use appliances and fixtures per year with efficient ones, and provide community members with 150 home water audit kits per year – steps that will save around 90,000 gallons of water annually.

In Summit County, Colorado, WaterNow and WRA worked with High County Conservation Center (HC3) to develop recommendations for an outdoor water efficiency program to support Summit County municipalities and water providers in reducing outdoor water use. HC3 built upon the results of the Project Accelerator to apply for funding and was recently awarded a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to execute and implement their outdoor water efficiency program. With grant funding from CWCB, the Colorado River District, and other local partners, including the Town of Breckenridge, Town of Frisco, and Town of Dillon, HC3 will be able to advance irrigation efficiency across Summit County through activities such as irrigation certifications for local landscapers, development of rebate programs and incentives for irrigation audits and equipment updates, and environmental education designed to drive water savings. Rachel Zerowin, Community Programs Director at HC3, says: “Project Accelerator was instrumental in jumpstarting our community’s irrigation efficiency programs. It’s more important than ever to use water wisely, and this support helped us prioritize the most impactful strategies for conserving water in our mountain resort community.”

Accelerator projects come in all sizes and shapes but share common goals of advancing sustainable solutions, supporting under-resourced communities, advancing water equity, and fostering climate resilience. More information about past projects is available on WaterNow’s website – along with additional examples of water management solutions.

Applications for the program will be accepted through July 29. Click here to learn more or apply.

Photo by Steve Adams on Unsplash.


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