By Cynthia Koehler, Executive Director, WaterNow Alliance & Howard Neukrug, Executive Director, Water Center at Penn
We had been bumping into one another for years at conferences and meetings before one of our funders pulled together a group that they saw as leaders in advancing innovative ways of supporting urban management and building toward a more equitable and climate resilient future. We quickly realized that the goals of The Water Center at Penn and WaterNow Alliance are well aligned and that we share a fundamental theory of change; that working directly with water service providers and providing strategies, resources and technical assistance is a critical pathway to action and change in the sector.
At the same time, our respective organizations have developed different but highly complementary areas of expertise and experience. Embedded in a major American university, the Water Center has unique capacity for ground-breaking research, policy development, and applied data analysis vital to addressing the challenges of urban water sustainability and resilience for the long-term. WaterNow has a record of demonstrated success working with communities to advance distributed One Water solutions, and particularly financing for innovative strategies, and in providing federal and state funding navigation support for under-resourced agencies. And while both of our organizations are national in scope, the Water Center has developed strong relationships in the Midwest and Eastern US, while WaterNow has been particularly active in California and the American West.
Over the last few years, our teams have worked together on a number of projects – from Navigate the Flood, a practical guide to stormwater resources for local leaders, to exploring opportunities for Green Stormwater Infrastructure in the City of Philadelphia , to collaborating on WaterNow’s Tap into Resilience 2022 Summit. These successes eventually led us to consider how our two small organizations could benefit from working together in a more intentional way for the long-term. To this end, we’re so pleased to announce that we have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to work together in a strategic partnership, where we will be pooling our respective resources and areas of expertise to achieve even greater impact nationwide. Read our official press release here.
While our initial list of joint projects is still under development, we expect to be focused on place-based project work with drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems and their interaction with natural water systems. We’ll be providing broader and more enhanced technical assistance, including policy analysis and academic research at the community scale, with an emphasis on innovation in financing and technology to bring more climate resilient, equitable, affordable, and sustainable water solutions to communities.
We are particularly excited about opportunities to expand the Tap into Resilience platform and develop more larger-scale green infrastructure and lead service line replacement projects, by addressing the financing and implementation challenges that can slow or impede these initiatives. It’s a great start to the New Year and we are thrilled to be getting underway.