Bringing Nature to Water Infrastructure
The Water Infrastructure of Tomorrow
Building integrated water systems that benefit nature and society
Water infrastructure is essential to our everyday lives. It’s how we get our clean drinking water, how waste is recycled, stormwater drained, farm fields irrigated, and floodwaters kept at bay. Tomorrow’s water infrastructure will need to address population growth, wildlife species’ needs, community values, and a changing climate in creative, efficient, and integrated ways. Learn about Willamette Partnership’s work in this space below.
Population growth and more frequent extreme weather events are intensifying the pressure on our country’s aging infrastructure at a time when federal investment in local and regional water infrastructure is increasingly less.
The growing challenges facing America’s water infrastructure can be an opportunity to redefine the way we think about infrastructure. At Willamette Partnership, we envision having a water infrastructure that works with nature on a watershed-scale, because we know those are the kinds of solutions that bring multiple benefits to the economy, public health, social equity, water quality, and wildlife.
Laws and utilities aren’t set-up to deliver the kinds of integrated and nature-based solutions we need. For example, stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater are managed separately under environmental laws and often by different entities.
Our regulatory system often can’t accept restoration for compliance. Too often the systems governing water infrastructure and water quality are unable to accept the use of nature-based approaches, like river restoration, to meet water quality standards.
Gaps in scientific understanding of what ecosystems need, what restoration and conservation can achieve, and the economic benefits that a healthy, resilient environment can provide to communities.
WHAT WE CAN DO
We know that to change the world, we need the right choice to be the easy choice, which means creating smooth policy pathways, providing supporting information, and helping evolving institutions develop their capacities. Willamette Partnership’s team members are problem solvers at the nexus of science, policy, and people, and our experience makes us uniquely positioned to enable competitive, nature-based solutions for the Pacific Northwest’s drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure. Here’s what we can do to transform and support a region of water infrastructure innovators:
- Innovate: Identifying new ways to address sticky issues and moving those ideas into action. Building a coalition of partners that can remove barriers–whether in science, policy, decision-making, or finance–and get innovative approaches off the starting blocks.
- Launch: Working directly with utilities and their key partners and stakeholders to start up and operate innovative programs.
- Transfer: Communicating results and making innovative approaches progressively easier and faster to implement, thereby speeding transfer to other places where they can be applied, especially to communities with less capacity.
- Scale: Figuring out how to change the world by changing the rules–helping build networks, institutions, and policies in which better resource decisions get made.
Publications & News
Willamette Partnership researched various workforce development programs led by water utilities throughout the country to see what type of solutions water utilities are implementing to address their workforce needs.
Understanding how water utilities attract and retain employees today can help shape the water workforce needed for tomorrow. In this post, we share three takeaways from our review of…
Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, Willamette Partnership, and Portland State University have formed a partnership aimed at innovative investments and job skills for infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. This 2-page…
As Willamette Partnerships launches a new project surveying the Northwest’s water utility sector to learn how we can recruit and prepare workers for the infrastructure challenges of our future,…
A handout about the Infra-Next project, providing technical assistance to communities actively working through innovative infrastructure investments, like planning a multi-use regional stormwater park, developing a smarter power grid,…
A handout about our plan to deliver a workforce needs assessment that will help water utilities and other infrastructure providers get ready to design, build, and maintain the infrastructure…
Get in touch about smarter water infrastructure.