The wait is over – the winner of the Arizona Community Foundation’s Water Innovation Challenge has been determined at last. Congratulations to Pima County’s Wastewater Reclamation Department, and their partners the City of Tucson, Marana Water, Carollo Engineers, CH2M, University of Arizona, aquaTECTURE, and Clean Water Services. The proposal is an effluent-to-potable reuse technology, statewide mobile public engagement campaign, and local craft beer competition. Boiled down, the idea is to build a mobile water reuse facility and team with local breweries to demonstrate the safety of potable reuse technology and do so in a fun and relatable way.
The concept is to engage the public in a conversation about potable water reuse through the vehicle of a statewide beer tasting competition using reclaimed water. The project is a unique and inspired way of tackling what many believe is the most problematic aspect of reclaimed water – less the technology itself and more the “yuck” factor. Addressing this issue head on is challenging for public agencies and Pima County’s approach has significant potential to engage the public, to attract media attention and to move the conversation about how/whether/when to use reclaimed water forward in a big way.
I was pleased to be on the selection panel of five judges for the Prize last Thursday in Phoenix at a terrific event that brought out much of the of AZ water community. While the deliberations were of course secret, I believe that it’s safe to reveal that the choice was not an easy one in light of the considerable merits of the 5 finalists. The Foundation’s efforts to galvanize community action around sustainable and innovative water solutions were extremely successful, and I hope will be a model to community foundations across the West and beyond.
For WaterNow Alliance, the project is especially exciting since we will be working with the winning team to help them realize their objectives. Under an agreement with the Arizona Community Foundation, the winning team receives not only the $250,000 Prize, but another $50,000 of our time and expertise to support the project team in realizing its objectives.
This week we also welcome Danielle McPherson, our new Water Resource Specialist, to the WaterNow Alliance team. With a background in wastewater management and an longtime beer enthusiast, she'll be diving into work directly with Pima County and will blog about her progress while in the field. Check back here for updates!