Water Sector Strides Toward Sustainability With Envision

Our guest blogger, Lindsey Geiger, ENV SP, from the American Water Works Association (AWWA), describes how AWWA encourages and supports its members in pursuing sustainable solutions to improving infrastructure systems. Ms. Geiger is a member of ISI’s Envision Review Board and serves as an Envision trainer and verifier.

Today’s water sector faces many challenges. Increasing populations strain existing water and wastewater infrastructure systems, particularly in urban areas. Many of these systems are aging and already in need of repair. AWWA’s Buried No Longer report estimates “investment needs for buried drinking water infrastructure total more than $1 trillion nationwide over the next 25 years.” Further, with the changing climate, some regions of the United States are experiencing droughts that are more severe than ever before. In these regions, alternatives are being considered for water supply portfolios, including water reuse and long-term conservation planning.

For water providers faced with such costly challenges, it’s imperative that the solutions they employ are viable within the communities they serve and provide for long-term economic and resource needs.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) encourages and supports its members in pursuing sustainable solutions to improving infrastructure systems. The AWWA Sustainability Policy Statement exemplifies the organization’s approach:

The American Water Works Association urges water utility staff and governing boards to strive for increased sustainability as they fulfill their missions as water providers. AWWA supports an approach to sustainability that takes into account economic, environmental, and social elements. Sustainability should be considered with regard to the total water supply, including drinking water, wastewater, reuse and stormwater, and be integrated with meaningful metrics to demonstrate progress in all aspects of management from water supply options to infrastructure, financing decisions, and everyday operational choices.

Adopted by the Board of Directors Jan. 23, 2011. Revised June 8, 2014.

AWWA recognizes that Envision is a valuable resource that contributes to sustainable approaches across the total water supply. The rating system gives water-sector professionals the necessary tools to design, implement, and operate systems that will endure through the challenges of growing and expanding communities and urban centers.

As a charter member of ISI, AWWA aids in the development of Envision and educates AWWA members on the rating system’s sustainability methodologies. AWWA members are taking steps toward a more holistic approach to infrastructure improvements, applying sustainable principles and achieving positive results. AWWA Service Provider member Brown and Caldwell demonstrates how Envision can be used to assess multiple stormwater best management practices (BMPs) across all five categories of sustainability metrics: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, Climate & Risk. (ISI Envision Sustainability Methodologies for Stormwater BMPs—Sustainable Return on Investments, Valerie Fuchs, Brown and Caldwell, presented at the Sustainable Water Management Conference, March 2015, Portland, Ore.).

With the goal of keeping the water industry at the forefront of sustainable practices, AWWA fosters further exploration of sustainability assessments that include a wide range of factors. AWWA has credentialed ENV SPs on staff who are available to discuss the benefits of Envision, assist in using the planning tools, and the development of customized training workshops. Utilities use these workshops as an engaging way for staffs to learn about the Envision Rating System, which allows for hands-on practice using the tools and getting comfortable with navigating the guidance manual. Participants who complete these accreditation workshops qualify to take the Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) credentialing exam. Utilities recognize the importance of having credentialed professionals on project teams as a way to implement sustainable infrastructure that optimizes project efficiency and effective management of resources.

AWWA members are taking steps to increase sustainability and improve project efficiency. AWWA has held accreditation trainings for DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project team members and for staff of the City of Westminster, Colo. These members now look for new ways to incorporate sustainability principles across their capital project portfolios.

If you are interested in learning more about how AWWA helps the water sector navigate ISI’s Envision, please contact Lindsey Geiger.