Education, training, financing identified as key needs to transform water systems for benefit of all
Press Release – Flooding fueled by climate change hits low-income neighborhoods most severely, disproportionately harming those with limited resources to prepare for and recover from damages – particularly communities of color.
A small but effective cadre of people and organizations is assembling the knowledge, skills and information base to equitably build the resilience of those communities, but an infusion of education, training and financing is necessary to transform inequitable systems and practices in the water sector, according to a new report.
The report, “Building a Community of Practice at the Intersection of Water, Climate Resilience and Equity,” analyzed the challenges and opportunities for those working to address the interplay of water systems, climate resilience and equity. The analysis includes an examination of the work of organizations across the nation that are part of The Kresge Foundation’s Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative. Kresge funded the report, written by Meridian Institute for American Rivers.
“A primary driver for our support of this report is to equip community leaders, municipal and water utility decision-makers, and funders with the guidance they need to make smart decisions about water infrastructure, use inclusive decision-making and explore innovative financing mechanisms that better incorporate the needs of low-income residents and communities of color,” said Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, senior program officer at Kresge and manager of the CREWS initiative. “We are confident that the recommendations will be valuable for water utility managers, policymakers, community leaders, the philanthropic sector and others working in this arena.”
The report acknowledges the water/climate resilience/equity nexus is still a fledgling arena for many community leaders and policy makers to explore. It summarizes key needs necessary to expand work that explicitly addresses all three. They include:
Several promising methods to meet these needs are being developed by organizations working together under the Kresge CREWS initiative. Examples include:
The CREWS initiative was launched in 2017 to transform urban stormwater and wastewater systems so they provide reliable, equitable and innovative services to communities despite the uncertainties introduced by climate change. It aims to strengthen climate-vulnerable regions and water systems by nurturing a new cadre of water leaders; building the case and enabling environment for equitable water system transformation; and advancing nontraditional approaches to financing, operations and community participation that produce multiple community benefits.
The CREWS work is making a difference, the report concludes: “Spurred by the vision, leadership and philanthropy of The Kresge Foundation CREWS initiative, this emerging community of practice is having a notable impact in communities and policymaking decisions across the United States. The emphasis Kresge has put on the equity dimension of urban flooding and climate resilience is helping to instill an “equity lens” in the water sector more broadly.”
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