Through Project Accelerator, WaterNow partners with communities and water agencies to champion sustainable, innovative water solutions. Today we are excited to announce three new Accelerator projects that we will begin working with this fall.
City of Charlottesville, VA: Toilet Rebate Program Review and Revamp
Charlottesville is a small city with a population of 45,000, in central Virginia, near the Blue Ridge mountains. As part of a broader push towards sustainability and its goal of becoming a carbon neutral city by 2050, the City is reviewing and revamping an existing toilet rebate program, a 20-year-old policy which has seen a decline in enrollment in recent years.
Project goals include analyzing a recent decline in rebate applications and developing expansions or improvements to the program that will reinvigorate the application rate and make the program as effective and equitable as possible. These may include adjusting the eligibility criteria and caps on rebate program participation and/or developing a direct install program. WaterNow will support the City in reviewing and analyzing the current state of the toilet rebate program, determining improvement options for the program, and creating a deployment or implementation plan for these updated program elements. In particular, the project will aim to identify and remove barriers to participation among low-income community members. Once implemented, this project has the potential to add to the estimated 787 million gallons of water this program has already saved, reduce energy use by lowering water and wastewater demand, and save Charlottesville residents money on their water bills.
Northern Water, CO: Developing a Water Efficient Model Ordinance Library for Northern Water Allottees
Across Colorado, local communities are developing responsive public policy initiatives that address concerns over drought and the availability of local water resources. With population growth continuing in Northeastern Colorado, Northern Water now serves more than 1 million residents within their service area, encompassing over 1.6 million acres in portions of eight counties: Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington, and Weld. In order to meet future water demands for Northern Water’s allottees, WaterNow and our partner Western Resource Advocates will work with Northern Water to develop a Water Efficient Model Ordinance Library for communities to use as a resource, guide, and inspiration to adopt into individual land use codes. This library may include ordinances related to graywater, green infrastructure, raw or reclaimed water, water efficient construction, among other topics – and will serve as a comprehensive list of best management practices that communities could adopt into their own regulations.
Wake County, NC: Equitable Outreach Strategy for Well & Septic Financial Assistance Pilot Program
Wake County is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States, with a population of 1.15 million. This rapid growth has contributed to challenges ensuring that all residents can continue to afford to live within the County. Within Wake County, approximately 150,000 residents are served by more than 40,000 private drinking water wells and 240,000 residents are served by approximately 90,000 on-site wastewater systems. Among residents served by these systems, well contamination and on-site wastewater system failures present health risks, but high repair costs can be prohibitive. Comparison of economic indicators to rates of reliance on private wells show that large proportions of people rely on private wells and septic systems in some of the most economically challenged areas of Wake County. WaterNow will partner with Wake County to develop an equitable outreach and communications strategy for a two-year pilot program that provides financial assistance to repair wells or onsite wastewater systems for eligible low-income and elderly community members. This outreach framework will seek to ensure that vulnerable and under-resourced communities are represented and supported through this pilot program, and to lay the foundation for engagement around the County’s future One Water initiatives.
Looking to Future Opportunities
As always, the selection process remains challenging, since we receive many strong and creative applications for support, across a wide variety of projects. Applicants are engaging their communities in managing stormwater through green infrastructure, and finding creative ways to combat drought through water efficiency and conservation. Many are laying the groundwork for unique collaborations and partnerships between utilities and other local anchor institutions.
It’s exciting to see so many water providers across the U.S. developing sustainable and innovative projects to improve their community’s water quality and quantity, as well as raising public awareness about these important issues. We look forward to adding this round of projects to the library of examples and resources available on our website.
The next Application Round for Project Accelerator is coming up this winter, and we strongly encourage communities to consider applying. We look forward to more opportunities to build a sustainable, resilient water future with you!
Photo by Mitchell Kmetz on UnSplash.