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CREWS initiative takes on water systems, climate change and inequity


Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Series of recent articles, webinars and podcasts uplift efforts to transform urban stormwater and wastewater systems in communities of color

The water industry and the communities it supports are beset with many problems when it comes to failing infrastructure and systems; but some have it worse than others.

You could call it a triple threat. After decades of deferred investment, America’s water systems are in desperate need of updating and repair. Now, those systems are battered as never before by climate change. As a warming planet brings more frequent and intense storms, our nation’s water infrastructure — sensors, SCADA systems, miles of pipes, pumps, and tunnels — is being pushed to the limit. And deeply entrenched inequities ensure that low-income communities and people of color suffer the greatest impacts — from devastating floods to skyrocketing utility rates.

The connections among water, climate change, and inequity are clear. But until recently, that intersection went unexplored and unaddressed. The Kresge Foundation set out to change that: Since 2016, the Foundation has invested some $14 million in the Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems Initiative (CREWS).

CREWS works to transform urban stormwater and wastewater systems so that they will be able to provide reliable, equitable and innovative services to communities, despite the uncertainties introduced by climate change. To that end, CREWS deploys grants and social investments (e.g., low-cost loans, financing) to support green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in low-income communities and communities of color that experience repeated flooding.

As importantly, CREWS strengthens human infrastructure by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders: water utility leaders, municipal GSI managers, community organizers, engineers, project developers, environmentalists and others. The initiative focuses on making sure those stakeholders have the technical information they need to develop climate-informed, equitable water solutions, as well as the knowledge and tools needed to address the systemic and institutional racism that pervades the water sector — and our nation as a whole.

Continue reading this article at Water Online.

Learn more: Read a series of recent columns authored by Jalonne White-Newsome highlighting the CREWS initiative.

Watch: Recent webinars and podcasts featuring CREWS partners and other Kresge grantees.