Pitt Institute’s Water Management Task Force Releases Phase I Report, Plans, Meeting Schedule

Issue Date: 
March 19, 2007

Public meetings to be held throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania from March through May to get input that will help shape regional policy recommendations

The Institute of Politics’ Regional Water Management Task Force at Pitt has released a report summarizing the research completed since the task force’s inception last summer. It also is announcing plans to hold public meetings from March 28 through May 17 in all 11 counties within its geographic scope to seek public input on ways to improve how the region addresses its water-related problems.

The task force, an 11-county effort to improve how Southwestern Pennsylvania addresses its water and sewage challenges, will use the report to inform its outreach and educational activities to be conducted over the next six months.

“What we have learned so far should help us not only to explain how serious our water and sewage problems are, but also to show that these problems can be solved through well-conceived, collaborative efforts,” said Jared Cohon, Carnegie Mellon University president and chair of the task force.

Highlights of the task force’s research findings follow.

Benchmarking insights. Task force researchers visited four U.S. metropolitan areas recognized for their effectiveness in water-resource planning and found that, through partnerships with state legislative and regulatory bodies, these regions have been able to make significant progress in solving their water problems at a very modest planning cost, sometimes less than $1 per person per year.

Local case studies. Case studies of several management entities within Southwestern Pennsylvania identified best practices in collaboration and management, while also illustrating the serious challenges facing many communities that have deferred ongoing maintenance of deteriorating infrastructure.

Survey results. The task force’s survey of local governments and municipal authorities uncovered a strikingly wide range of customer rates and capital investments. Water and sewage rates in the region are generally modest, with the highest rates usually occurring in outlying areas that recently have become connected to public systems.

Significant investment. Survey results and other sources suggest that Southwestern Pennsylvania already has invested $3 to $4 billion in its water and sewage infrastructure in the past 10 years—a number that makes the multibillion-dollar estimates of repair needs seem less intimidating.

During its outreach phase, the task force will seek stakeholder and public input on possible approaches to regional collaboration. Among the possibilities are enhanced cooperation among entities that serve the same watershed, the establishment or designation of a regional entity to guide and provide consistency to water and sewage planning decisions, and the creation of subregional financing and management entities.

Each of the 14 scheduled public meetings will include a presentation of the task force’s work thus far, with the bulk of the two-hour meeting allotted for public comment and open discussion. The first meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. March 28 in Stover Hall at Waynesburg College in Greene County, 51 W. College St. A complete list of meetings is available on the task force Web site.

Groups interested in a presentation from the task force or in viewing its nine-minute video on Southwestern Pennsylvania’s water resource challenges can visit the task force Web site or contact the project team at 412-624-7792.