Urban Water Sustainability Conference Highlights Successful Programs

Green roof at the Civic Garden Center’s Green Learning Station in Cincinnati, OH

Green roof at the Civic Garden Center’s Green Learning Station in Cincinnati, OH | American Rivers

This week I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Water Alliance’s Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  This conference brought together leaders from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), U.S. EPA, research, utility management, city administration, and environmental advocacy with a focus on collaboration, teamwork, and innovation. 

Attendees heard presentations from several “spotlight” cities and counties that have figured out the best way to manage stormwater in their communities in a cost-effective way.  Many of these communities are focusing their limited budgets and resources on green infrastructure practices and programs, and in some cases, offering credits or grants to fund pilot projects. 

Kansas City’s Green and Water Works program, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s Project Clean Lake, and Onondaga County’s Save the Rain were all highlighted programs designed to use green infrastructure as a way to reduce the amount of water entering into their stormwater systems. 

I found these programs very inspirational and have taken the information learned at this conference back to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio to see if we can start working toward similar goals. 

Combined sewage overflow on Mill Creek, OH

Combined sewage overflow on Mill Creek, OH | American Rivers

As part of the conference, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati hosted a “Green Bus Tour” where attendees could see some of the green infrastructure practices they have funded around the city. 

One project, I find particularly ambitious and fascinating, is the Lick Run project where they intend to purchase properties between two streets to use the land for daylighting a stream to slow the amount of flow entering into the largest combined sewer overflow in the county.  We had the chance to stand at the entrance of this combined sewer overflow where it empties into Mill Creek, a tributary to the Ohio River.  At 19 feet in diameter, it was pretty impressive.