At the inaugural New Jersey Urban Water Conference on Dec. 10, 2015, a steering committee of thought leaders from a variety of sectors concerned about inadequate water infrastructure jeopardizing the long-term health and economic vitality of New Jersey’s cities and towns, announced the establishment of a new collective entity: Jersey Water Works. Jersey Water Works is, according to its purpose statement, “a cross-sector initiative focused on transforming New Jersey’s inadequate urban water infrastructure by investing in sustainable, cost-effective solutions that provide communities with clean water and waterways; healthier, safer neighborhoods; local jobs; flood and climate resilience; and economic growth.” It is a true collaborative, with members representing a wide variety of interested organizations and viewpoints and independent leadership from its steering committee.
Jersey Water Works has its origins in a May 2014 convening, led by New Jersey Future, with the support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, that brought together a group of concerned thought leaders from a variety of disciplines with the objective of forging a plan for addressing the water-infrastructure crisis in our cities. The discussions were informed by New Jersey Future’s report Ripple Effects, which reviewed the extent of the problem of aging and inadequate water infrastructure, and in particular the crisis faced by the 21 New Jersey cities with combined-sewer overflows. The convening agreed on an ambitious Agenda for Change, and its members immediately got to work on implementing it.
For more than a year, under New Jersey Future’s auspices, the Urban Water Solutions Initiative, as it had become known, formed committees that focused on issues such as incorporating green infrastructure into stormwater management efforts; examining innovative and equitable ways to finance water-infrastructure upgrades; disseminating best practices to communities and water system operators; and building support for the need to upgrade, through mayoral proclamations and governing-body resolutions and through the creation of informational materials for community groups.
In addition, behind the scenes the steering committee was formed and moved the initiative to a truly independent entity. Members collaborated on development of a new brand and the adoption of four primary goals and 12 supporting goals. The result, unveiled at the inaugural New Jersey Urban Water Conference on Dec. 10, 2015, is the new organization called Jersey Water Works.
Jersey Water Works‘ steering committee leads the organization, and a growing list of member organizations and individuals advance shared goals through their participation on various committees, as supporting members, and through their own work. New Jersey Future will continue to serve as the backbone organization.