2016 Mid-Atlantic Stakeholder Engagement Workshop
Understanding water challenges, success stories, and potential solutions
Date: 9:00a – 4:00p, 5/24/2016
The purpose of the 2016 Stakeholder Meeting is to jump start the UWIN network building activities that aim to connect people concerned with urban water sustainability. During the meeting, we will introduce the UWIN project, work to identify concerns, needs, and potential urban water sustainability solutions within the region, and collectively think about how UWIN research can assist. Input gathered during the meeting will be used to guide national level project efforts, which include the development of an urban water sustainability framework, the UWIN Blueprint.
Welcome and Introduction
Claire Welty: welcome, introductions, agenda overview and purposes
All: self introductions
Mike Sukop: national engagement project overview
Network Activity 1
- KEY STRENGTHS of the region’s water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
- MOST SERIOUS THREATS to those systems
- Any MAJOR ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, or ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS CAUSED by those systems
- KEY EFFORTS OR SUCCESSESS UNDERWAY to address threats and impacts;
- POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS NOT BEING WIDELY TRIED that deserve a closer look
- KEY IMPEDIMENTS to implementing solutions.
Break and Purposeful Conversation: Find two people you don’t know and share your water interests, questions, or concerns
Network Activity 2
Discuss, Refine, Categorize, and Assess Ideas
UWIN Overview Presentation
Mazda Arabi: Introduction to UWIN project and discussion of appropriate regional boundaries and time frames
Lunch in the Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory
UWIN Research Presentation:
The local UWIN technical team – Research Presentation
Network Activity 3:
Facilitated discussion: What are your greatest needs for assistance and how might UWIN address them? For example, linking with UWIN experts, help you learn from peers via various communication avenues, inform our research activities, data needed to help you implement actions toward desired water targets.
Network Activity 4:
Social / professional Network Expansion Activity and how the UWIN network might be used to support the region’s needs and goals
Next steps and how to stay in touch and share information.
Post workshop survey
There were 23 individuals present and 1 individual participating by phone. Participants represented city and county governments, research institutes, university-based research teams, and community-based non-profits.
After a brief introduction to the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN) by UWIN team leaders, stakeholders shared their views on the current state of regional water, wastewater, and storm water systems in Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Specifically, views on the strengths of the water systems and their governance, threats to the systems, problems in achieving sustainability, potential solutions to these problems and barriers to solution implementation, and success stories were elicited. The resulting discussion was insightful and nuanced, providing the research team with a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with managing the water systems. Presentations by Claire Welty (UMBC), Chris Swan (UMBC), Andy Miller (UMBC), and Elie Bou Zeid (Princeton) provided examples of faculty work supported by the UWIN project. Networking activities were geared toward generating ideas for aligning UWIN research efforts with needs of regional stakeholders. Participants provided feedback on the types of research and information products that would be most useful in their decision environments. Finally, there was discussion about how to expand the network and the value of the network as a leading voice for rational water policies. More details on information shared during the session are included in the sections below.
Participants described the many challenges associated with the aging infrastructure that exists throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Threats to regional stream and water quality, including emerging contaminants, were discussed primarily in the context of greater Chesapeake Bay management efforts.
Management challenges including population growth, land use change, and limited space for solutions were also among the concerns about the water systems that were discussed by stakeholders. Discussion focused on building and maintaining community awareness, education, informed public action and behavioral change, and political support, and the critical role of these factors in creating sustainable water systems. Concerns about climate impacts were also raised; however, these were presented as more distant challenges facing the region.
Meeting participants shared examples of successes including those that can be categorized as governance and management successes/strengths as well as those that result from the physical nature of the system. The water management community was described as being highly informed, involved in effective regional interaction and coordination (Baltimore County, specifically), and as having strong collaboration among middle management. Because of the depth of water research and professional growth that has been conducted in the region, the level of knowledge of the system is extremely high and there are many successful mechanisms for exchange between university and stakeholder communities. All of this has amounted to a strong foundation for the management of potable water, storm water, and wastewater in the region.
Additionally, the existence of separate storm and wastewater systems, the established stormwater fee, and the protected nature of regional reservoirs were also described as strengths of the system.
Barriers or impediments
Barriers or impediments to implementing sustainable water management solutions generally fell into four broad areas: institutional inertia, regulatory environment, resource limitations, and public awareness. Limited funding availability was described as an impediment to moving water systems in the region to a more sustainable state. Competition for limited resources was also discussed. Another barrier discussed was the limited public acceptance of solutions and limited understanding of the details behind regional water problems/solutions. Institutional inertia and resistance to change among water managers were also described as barriers to sustainability. Additionally, the short-term perspective adopted by many managers, leaders, and the public inhibits progress. Other challenges to innovation that were described included the lack of coordination across jurisdictions and the extent of privately-owned land, which limits options for solutions to meet TMDLs.
Participants described interest in more effective collaboration between academic researchers and agencies. There was also an expressed interest in streamlining existing data into more organized, usable formats. Concerns about communication between research project teams and coordination of products were shared by stakeholders. Within this context the following opportunities for interaction/ research needs were identified:
- Can we build a searchable database for best practices and synthesis of research studies?
- How can Maryland’s two trash TMDLs be quantified so that the data can be used to move a policy agenda forward?
- Practitioners need to be able show residents and decision makers what approaches water professionals in other regions are using and how they work in order to encourage buy-in.
- Stakeholders need to be able to show water management and research communities, as well as interested members of the public, the costs of action and “the biggest bang for the buck”. It would be great to be able to show which BMP has the best value.
- What information drives policy choices? Strategic research on implementation is needed.
- The management community needs reasonable expectations on return on investment and impact on community during implementation of various solutions to the TMDL regulation.
- Stakeholders and the research community need to talk about changing behavior of homeowners, but also changing behaviors of business players as well as decision makers. How can we bring in the business sector?
- More than data is needed; participants need technology transfer information.
- Given that Maryland/ the Chesapeake region is so data-rich, participants suggested a synthesis document that shows the state of the science. An easily accessible article with state of the science and case studies would be helpful.
- Public health experts should be included in our discussions/ research. (e.g., Media coverage of Zika has been wildly influential, but the general public does not understand that mosquitos can breed in their backyards.)