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New Jersey’s Urban Water Systems: A Challenge, and an Opportunity for Collaboration, Engagement, Innovation, Vision

August 4th, 2014 by

Chris Sturm and Peter Kasabach share their thoughts on how New Jersey can turn this urban water infrastructure crisis into an opportunity for long-term prosperity.

New Jersey Future representatives recently participated in a dialogue on the challenges and opportunities related to the future of the state’s urban water infrastructure. The dialogue, titled Inspiring Solutions and hosted by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, is meant to spark conversation on the future resiliency of the state’s urban water supplies.

This past May, New Jersey FutureThe Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation convened a group of New Jersey leaders from environmental organizations, water utilities, economic and community development organizations, the private sector, and local, state and federal government to develop and issue an action agenda to catalyze the transformation of New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure.

This installment of Inspiring Solutions is a continuation of the issues tackled during the May convening and features six essays from various state and industry leaders. The Johnson Foundationat Wingspread posed the following question to the contributors:

 Most New Jersey cities have been under-investing in their water infrastructure systems for decades – creating vulnerabilities that were exploited by Superstorm Sandy.  New Jersey’s oldest and all of its largest cities are relying on antiquated, aging water infrastructure that pollutes neighborhoods and rivers, and will ultimately pose a considerable barrier to economic prosperity and revitalization. 

Simultaneously, a population shift is occurring, with people increasingly moving into the urban centers of the state. This presents an opportunity for cities to collaborate with public, private and nongovernmental partners on improving water infrastructure to meet this demand while also enhancing community resilience and spurring economic growth. 

Given the challenges that New Jersey faces with aging infrastructure, socioeconomics and changing weather patterns, what do you see as the greatest opportunity to address New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure challenges in a financially constrained environment?

Peter Kasabach, New Jersey Future’s executive director, and Chris Sturm, the organization’s senior director of state policy, responded that New Jersey cities can use different approaches tested across the country to turn Clean Water Act compliance into a successful path to economic revitalization. They said:

“New Jersey Future is energized by the powerful partners – including leaders from city, state and federal government; government- and investor-owned water utilities; and economic and community development, environment, business, finance and technology organizations – who have helped us craft an Agenda for Change for New Jersey’s urban water infrastructure. Working together, we can expand the silver lining in the Clean Water Act permit requirements to foster strong cities that are bright “green,” both environmentally and economically, all while setting a new course for the entire state’s water infrastructure future.”

To view all the discussions, go to

Also participating in the discussion are Kim Gaddy, environmental justice organizer at Clean Water Fund; Debbie Mans, executive director at the NY/NJ Baykeeper; Anthony Perno, chief executive officer at Coopers Ferry Partnership; Chris Daggett, president and chief executive officer of Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; and Margaret Waldock, environment program director at Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

This dialogue is part of Charting New Waters, a Johnson Foundation at Wingspread initiative dedicated to catalyzing new solutions to U.S. freshwater challenges. Charting New Waters brings together experts from across the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, as well as other stakeholders to focus on the operational, institutional and market-related challenges that our water and wastewater utilities need to overcome.

2 Responses to “New Jersey’s Urban Water Systems: A Challenge, and an Opportunity for Collaboration, Engagement, Innovation, Vision”

  1. Fred Grygiel says:

    Is the NJBPU involved in this project?

    • Elaine Clisham says:

      Yes, we interviewed the BPU staff as part of our research. And BPU Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden attended our May meeting and continues to participate. We welcome ways to involve the BPU more significantly going forward. — Chris Sturm.

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