Two Cities at the Water Forefront

Growing Blue

Chicago and New York “invest in innovation” to preserve water infrastructure

Community health and economic vitality rely on efficient, reliable water and wastewater systems. Yet many U.S. communities are not keeping their systems functioning well, which will eventually result in higher costs for maintenance, operations and repairs. Fortunately, two of the biggest U.S. cities, Chicago and New York, are taking the innovative steps necessary to keep their systems efficient well into the future.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a significant increase to rates in order to fund water and sewer projects. It’s a difficult political decision, but the reality is that much of Chicago’s infrastructure was laid more than a hundred years ago. The expected change in rates is expected to yield more than a billion dollars to fund future improvements. It’s also expected to generate 18,000 jobs. Modernizing the system will have other benefits, including reducing the amount of water lost through leaks. It will also increase the City’s ability to handle strong storms, which put stress on stormwater infrastructure. When all is said and done, the program will be one of Chicago’s largest infrastructure investments.

New York has long been known for its high water quality and is a world leader in the water industry. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently utilized a new model to improve public water services by combining the skills of a public workforce with private sector experts to implement best practices in a performance based contract.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it has completed the first phase of its OpX (Operational Excellence) program with Veolia Water. The first phase of OpX was a six-month, system-wide operations analysis designed to help make DEP the nation’s safest, most effective, cost-efficient, and transparent water utility. DEP has now selected Veolia to help the agency implement a four-year program that the two organizations believe will deliver annual financial benefits representing up to 10 percent of the agency’s operating budget by 2016. The recommended improvements are projected to yield over $100 million annually by 2016.

When water is managed effectively, it benefits us all. Chicago and New York are leading the way to a culture of innovation in the water sector.

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