The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has announced a new $4 million initiative to address water infrastructure issues in Flint, Michigan, and other cities in the region.
According to the foundation, the water crisis in Flint focused attention on the woeful state of the nation's aging infrastructure and the negative health effects associated with drinking and using water contaminated by lead and harmful bacteria. The crisis also revealed that nonprofit organizations had largely overlooked the types of water infrastructure issues that led to the drinking water emergency in the Michigan city. Through an integrated water management approach, the foundation's new initiative aims to help nonprofits address the types of issues that arose in Flint but that are also a challenge for other industrialized cities of the Great Lakes region. To advance that approach, the foundation's grantmaking through the initiative will seek to build expertise within environmental organizations, support research and policy analysis, provide technical assistance to communities and citizen groups, and increase public engagement around the importance of drinking water infrastructure.
According to Radhika Fox, the CEO of Mott grantee US Water Alliance, integrated water management can strengthen communities by bringing more diverse voices into key discussions concerning water and water infrastructure. "Integrated water management unites utilities with community groups, as well as environmental and agricultural interests," said Fox. "Bringing community groups into the conversation, and ensuring utilities are good community partners in project design and contracting phases, can benefit cities across the country, including Flint."
"The Flint water crisis taught us that the prevailing approach to managing drinking water, storm water, and wastewater is disjointed, ineffective, and inefficient," said Mott Foundation president Ridgway White. "We'll work to change that by promoting a new, holistic approach to managing all water-related infrastructure."