More education, training, and financing are needed to address inequitable practices in the water sector that harm communities of color, a report from Meridian Institute, American Rivers, and the Kresge Foundation finds.
The report, Building a Community of Practice at the Intersection of Water, Climate Resilience and Equity (52 pages, PDF), examines the challenges that organizations participating in Kresge's Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative face in addressing the interplay of water systems, climate resilience, and equity. Acknowledging that the nexus of the three is still a fledgling area, the report summarizes key needs, including deeper education with respect to climate science and how it is used to inform water infrastructure project planning and decision making; greater awareness of the importance of stormwater and wastewater infrastructure among residents and those making policy and funding decisions; better data on and communication of the benefits of green stormwater infrastructure; flexible funding that allows community-based leaders to build institutional capacity over time; and balancing investments that advance the field as a whole with "on the ground" funding of efforts in particular communities.
The report highlights a number of promising approaches developed by organizations participating in the initiative, including the Anthropocene Alliance's Flood Forum USA initiative, which has built a nationwide grassroots coalition of flood survivor advocacy groups; Earth Economics' efforts to support local partners in obtaining federal funding for post-disaster green infrastructure investments; and U.S. Water Alliance's Equitable Water Future initiative, which builds the capacity of a range of stakeholders working to advance equitable and resilient water management practices.
Launched in 2017, CREWS is designed to strengthen the resilience of climate-vulnerable regions and water systems by nurturing a new cadre of water leaders, building the case and enabling the environment for equitable water system transformation, and advancing non-traditional approaches to financing, operations, and community participation that produce multiple community benefits.
"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 Jalonne L. White-Newsome, senior program officer at the Kresge Foundation and manager of the initiative. "We are confident that the recommendations will be valuable for water utility managers, policy makers, community leaders, the philanthropic sector, and others working in this arena."