2016 UWIN Pacific Northwest Stakeholder Engagement Workshop
Connecting people concerned about urban water sustainability
Date & Time: July 12, 2016 – 9:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Chemeketa Eola Events Center, 215 Doaks Ferry Road NW, Salem, OR 97304
The purpose of the 2016 Pacific NW Stakeholder Meeting is to jumpstart 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 Pacific NW 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 & Introductions
National Engagement Project Overview
Network Activity #1: Facilitated Brainstorming
- Key strengths of the region’s water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
- Most serious threats to those systems
- Major economic, social, or ecological problems caused by those systems
- Key efforts or successes underway to address threats and impacts
- Possible solutions not being widely tried that deserve a closer look
- Key impediments to implementing solutions
Network Activity #2:
- Discussing, Refining, Categorizing, and Assessing Ideas from Activity #1
Introduction to UWIN
- Discussion of appropriate regional boundaries and time frames
Research Presentation: The local UWIN technical team
Network Activity #3: Facilitated Discussion
- What are your greatest needs for assistance and how might UWIN address them?
Network Activity #4: Social/professional Network Expansion Activity
- How the UWIN network might be used to support the region’s needs and goals
- Next steps
- How to stay in touch and share information
Twenty-two individuals, representing city and county governments, federal agencies, university-based research teams, and community based non-profits, were in attendance.
The meeting represented the first national scale project gathering, and the second regional engagement of the UWIN Stakeholder Advisory Committee as SAC members have been participating in ongoing research in the Willamette Basin, affiliated with Willamette Water 2100 and UWIN. Among the SAC, there was representation from local and state governments, utilities, non-profit organizations, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After a brief description of 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 the Willamette Basin and voiced concerns. 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 much deeper understanding of the challenges associated with managing the water systems. There was a presentation by local project team members, Dave Hulse (Univ. of Oregon) and Dave Conklin (Oregon Freshwater Simulations), who provided an update on research progress since the last SAC meeting and demonstrated an example of research supported by the UWIN project. The subsequent activity was 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 UWIN 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.
A number of regional water challenges associated with growing populations, development outpacing conservation, development along rivers, loss of ecological functioning, and competing demands for resources were described by stakeholders. Climate change impacts are expected to add additional pressures on top of the already existing stressors. However seemingly obvious, the nature of threats/challenges to the region, which has an apparent abundance of water, is actually very nuanced. Even though humans use a small percentage of water, compared to the annual volume of surface water, most tributaries are fully allocated during the summer months, with some exceptions. Urban water systems are facing challenges with access to water for future uses because of the need to balance uses in what is a very diverse basin. In addition to allocation issues, a timing issue of water availability (for salmon and people) and for new use types was discussed. Additionally, participants described legal constraints on the system that prevent allocation of ‘paper’ water and cause issues for economic development. The need to retool existing management structures, which could require a retooling of Western Water Law, was also discussed as legal conditions governing water use present a major limiting factor in the optimal allocation of water in the region. Movement toward a One Water system, would call for changes in infrastructure and legal institutions. Finally, the severity of the threat of the “Big One”, a massive scale earthquake that could impact the provision of water services to the region for an extended period, was raised by many participants.
When participants were asked about success stories, a number of examples were shared. These include the Ecosystem Service Pilot Payments by Clean Water Services, water efficiency programs which have driven demand down, the Big Pipe project in Portland, and landscape-scale conservation efforts in the Basin. Further, governance structures including statewide water resources planning driven by statute, integrated water resources planning efforts, land acquisitions protected by land trusts, Endangered Species Act listings, and watershed- and county-scale conservation incentives, were described. The region was described as a proving ground for innovation, and an area where a dialogue of interconnectedness and collaborative thinking have resulted from the watershed planning approach. Watershed councils, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (state agency), and other institutionalized watershed groups have formalized this approach. The Regional Water Providers Consortium, a collaborative group of drinking water providers that pool funding for conservation and to conduct outreach and education, was offered as another example of a successful collaborative effort.
- A good deal of discussion focused on social readiness. What social pieces are needed to bring to scale the physical or technical fixes needed? You can turn out great science, but is there the social readiness? Can you build social readiness alongside the other science
- What are strategies to manage and maintain green infrastructure
- What are the effects of all of the “right things to do” on rates? The increases of rates are a concern and could influence social readiness for new technologies/ approaches.
- What are the opportunity costs of not doing green infrastructure? In planning, stakeholders found that they could save the rate payer money by implementing green infrastructure approaches?
- What is the biggest bang for the buck in green infrastructure?
- How do we communicate co-benefits to the public?
- It would be helpful to have an extension function, web-based support, and access to named individuals who could help local initiatives.
- Help educate small systems on what is actually a good return on investment.
- We are getting to the point where our infrastructure is failing. How are people going to be willing to repair pipes they can’t see when they don’t fix roads and bridges they can see?
- How can we get folks to pay the actual cost of water?
- Some story telling could be very helpful. Use real examples of things that are compelling and relatable. UWIN has a potential to tell those stories.
- What are the guiding principles that we can give to folks before they consider their capital improvement plans? Can you provide guidance for CIP planning that could improve coordination and reduce the silo effect?