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Meridian Institute

Report Explores Developing Action Agenda to Transform New Jersey’s Urban Water Systems

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Brad Spangler

A water infrastructure crisis looms in New Jersey’s oldest and largest cities that have combined sewer systems, which carry both sewage and rainwater, dating to the 19th century, according to a Charting New Waters (CNW) report released by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. Developing an Agenda for Change for New Jersey’s Urban Water Infrastructure is the product of a May 2014 meeting convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, New Jersey Future, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, which brought together a diverse group of New Jersey leaders to develop
an agenda for change aimed at catalyzing action to address urban water infrastructure challenges
in the state.
“When New Jersey Future and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation suggested we partner with them in an effort to catalyze changes in New Jersey’s cities, we immediately knew this was a great opportunity to apply and leverage what we have learned through our CNW convenings,” said Lynn Broaddus, Director of the Environment Program at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. “We have learned that new ideas emerge when we bring together experts with different experiences and perspectives and we believe New Jersey is the perfect state in which to put our convening model to the test.”
The May meeting participants built consensus around a set of recommended priority action steps they believe
can catalyze the transformation of urban water infrastructure throughout New Jersey. These actions are presented in the three-page consensus document, An Agenda for Change for New Jersey’s Urban Water Infrastructure (available at www.njfuture.org/water). In order to stave off crisis and position New Jersey’s cities for prosperous futures, the report says public, private and nongovernmental partners need to ensure necessary investments are made to design, construct and maintain 21st century water infrastructure that:
• Strengthens Cities: Protects public health and the environment and enhances the attractiveness, livability and safety of cities, while making them more resilient to extreme weather events and natural disasters.
• Enables Economic Growth: Reliably and efficiently delivers safe and adequate drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management services that meet the needs of city residents and businesses today and into the future.
• Leverages Modern Practices: Employs state- of-the-art technologies and best management practices that generate multiple benefits – economic (cost savings, job creation, new businesses), environmental (improved water quality) and social (better quality of life).
• Reduces Flooding and Energy Use: Reduces localized flooding from storms, water main breaks and sewer overflows, and enhances energy efficiency to reduce both water utility costs 
and air pollution.
The in-depth report from the May 2014 meeting is available for download at: www.johnsonfdn.org/chartingnewwaters.