WaterNow’s Project Accelerator helps communities jumpstart sustainable water projects. Are you in?
We work with public drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater agencies to develop and implement affordable, sustainable, climate resilient and equitable water solutions. The Project Accelerator provides cities, towns and utilities with the opportunity to obtain technical assistance tailored to local priorities and their specific needs. Projects range from the support of grassroots community engagement in Cleveland, to the creation of a roadmap towards green streets in New Orleans, to the creation of water efficiency programs in Evans, Colorado.
The Project Accelerator is designed to increase community capacity to get innovative and community-oriented water management projects off the ground. Twice a year, WaterNow holds a competitive application cycle for projects to receive various kinds of technical and program assistance. Selected projects receive up to 250 hours of pro-bono support over 6-9 months. The assistance provided ranges from program design and management to policy and legal analysis, stakeholder outreach, communications, data analysis, sustainability expertise and more!
While the Accelerator is open to all sustainable water initiatives, WaterNow has developed particular expertise around designing, financing, and implementing onsite and decentralized water solutions of various kinds. As communities across the country are leveraging a wider range of solutions to adapt to a changing climate, increase water supply security, and protect water quality and the health of our aquatic resources, these strategies can include green stormwater infrastructure, water reuse and recapture, source water protection, water use efficiency, private lead service line replacements and other approaches that serve the same functions as conventional water infrastructure.
Critically, these approaches can often generate additional benefits, such as job creation, neighborhood greening, cost reduction, local economic development, and enhancements to public health.
Accelerator projects vary widely, depending on each community’s priorities, but they share common goals of implementing innovative, sustainable solutions, particularly those that support under-resourced communities and build climate resilience. We are here to help you move past roadblocks on the path to implementation.
Program design and implementation
Best practices research, program design consultation, program success metrics, training and education, and other support
Water policy and legal analysis
Policy research to support local decision making, preparation of key planning documents, draft ordinances, and other analyses
Technical assistance navigating state and federal funding opportunities
Review of program eligibilities, application procedures and strategies, drafting and other application support
Community and stakeholder outreach
Stakeholder engagement, outreach and communications strategy and materials, communication with elected/appointed decision makers, presentation preparation, and other support
Spatial analyses, water savings calculations, and other forms of technical assistance
Broad sustainability expertise
Participation in the program includes access to WaterNow’s large partner network of water sector experts
If you have any questions about the Project Accelerator program or application process, please contact Amy Weinfurter ([email protected]).
You can explore past and current Project Accelerator projects below, and learn more about how communities are implementing sustainable, affordable, and climate-resilient water solutions across the country in our interactive StoryMap.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who is eligible to apply?
The Accelerator is open to utilities, cities, towns, special districts, and other public entities with responsibility for drinking water, wastewater, and/or stormwater services. These applicants are welcome to propose projects that include other implementation and project partners, such as local community organizations, non-profit organizations, or other government agencies.
What kinds of projects are eligible for the Accelerator?
Project Accelerator provides short term support and technical assistance to get local priority projects off the ground. Specific projects can vary widely, depending on each communities’ goals, and have included efforts focused on conservation, efficiency, water reuse, green stormwater infrastructure, affordability and equity. In Cleveland, Ohio, for example, Project Accelerator supported the implementation of the Water Champions program, an initiative utilizing grassroots outreach to connect communities with affordability programs. A project in New Orleans developed a road map towards implementing the City’s goal of using its streets as green stormwater infrastructure and implementing a “green streets” ordinance. And in Cheyenne, WY and Evans, CO, the program supported the development of water efficient fixture direct installation programs for income-eligible residents. If you’re not sure if the project you have in mind is a fit, you can also reach out to us directly to discuss it in more detail.
While there is no specific limit on eligible projects, the Accelerator aims to provide strategic capacity for projects that advance sustainable water management approaches, in particular those that support under-resourced communities. Take a look at the examples below to get a sense of the projects supported by the Accelerator to date.
What types of support does Project Accelerator provide?
Project Accelerator support is wide ranging, and depends on a community’s goals and needs. It can span program design and implementation, policy and legal analysis, community stakeholder outreach, communications strategy, and data analysis. Technical support provided can include, but is not necessarily limited to:
- Navigating Federal and State Funding Opportunities
- Water Policy Research & Analysis
- Draft Ordinance Support
- Communication with Elected/Appointed Decision Makers
- Preparation of Key Planning Documents
- Best Practices Research
- Program Design and Development
- Program Success Metrics
- Training and Education
- Outreach & Communication Strategy
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Access to a Broad Network of Water Sector Experts
You can also reach out to us directly, to discuss whether your project is a good match for the types of support the Accelerator provides.
How long is the application?
The application (available here) includes five short answer questions about the proposed project, along with several additional multiple-choice questions to help us get to know the community and understand the logistics around the proposed idea. It typically takes applicants no more than one or two hours to complete.
What do you mean by projects that support under-resourced communities and advance water equity?
WaterNow defines equity as the fair and inclusive distribution of economic, political, social, and natural resources and opportunities to improve the livelihood of individuals and the overall health of society. Water equity means universal access to secure, affordable, safe, and healthy drinking water, and wastewater and stormwater management services. Equitable water infrastructure investment should support the long-term sustainability of our waterways, water systems, and utilities.
Projects that advance these goals can be wide-ranging and can include, but are not limited to:
- Affordability initiatives
- Efforts to reduce service shutoffs
- Developing internal diversity, equity, and inclusion programs
- Partnering with community groups to engage and build trust with the local community
- Understanding and increasing the uptake of water use efficiency, green infrastructure, or other incentive programs across all of a community’s demographics
- Engaging community members, including under-represented community members, in planning and decision-making processes
- Identifying and developing outreach strategies to connect the utility with populations that may be more difficult to reach (for instance, due to unreliable Internet access or language barriers)
- Creating green jobs programs, training opportunities, or other efforts to connect water services to local workforce development
- Supporting the recruitment and retention of utility staff that reflect the diversity of the communities served
- Supporting the creation and implementation of programs, such as the direct installation of localized water infrastructure, that are designed to meet the needs of low-income and hard-to-reach residents
WaterNow’s Water Equity and Climate Resilience for Frontline Communities Toolkit module includes additional context about and examples of the ways communities around the country are working to ensure water management services are accessible at all.
There are many ideas and approaches to move more quickly towards universal and inclusive access to water management services – we are interested in hearing your ideas, goals, and challenges and partnering on approaches that meet the unique priorities in your community.
How can I strengthen my application?
WaterNow’s evaluation team looks for the following in Accelerator applications:
- A clear focus on a sustainable, strategic, and climate-resilient water management solutions.
- Project that help ensure universal, inclusive access to water services.
- Benefits to under-resourced communities.
- Potential for replication in other communities with similar goals or challenges.
- Demonstration of a commitment to achieve the project outcomes and outputs (e.g., a funding commitment for the project in the form of a budget line item; an identification of the project as a priority in a strategy, plan, or report; or a commitment from the City Council, Board, or management).
If you’re not sure whether the project you have in mind is a fit, or if you have specific questions about the application, you can also reach out to us directly to discuss it in more detail.
When are applications open?
We typically invite applications twice a year, once in the spring/summer, and once in the fall/winter.
Some rounds are open to all applicants, and others include a specific focus on particular regions, geographies, or project types. For instance, the fall/winter 2022 call for applications focused on submissions from Colorado communities. Through these types of application cycles, we hope to not only support individual communities, but to also generate synergies between communities and utilities. By focusing on communities pursuing similar goals and addressing common challenges, we hope to deepen connections across communities, foster knowledge-sharing and collaboration, and open the door to innovative, regional solutions.