Atlanta Leaders Release Water Equity Roadmap

An Equitable Water Future: AtlantaThe U.S. Water Alliance, along with leadership from the City of Atlanta, community-based organizations, and philanthropy, has released An Equitable Water Future: Atlanta. This is the first-ever report on strategies to build water equity in Atlanta.

An Equitable Water Future: Atlanta was a joint effort of the Atlanta Water Equity Taskforce, which included theCity of Atlanta Department of Water Management (DWM), One Atlanta Office, Partnership for Southern Equity, American Rivers, The Conservation Fund, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and Environmental Community Action Inc.

The Atlanta Water Equity Taskforce began collaborating in 2018 to identify water equity issues in Atlanta and develop recommendations for advancing equity. To fully understand Atlanta’s water equity issues, one must understand the city’s history of racial segregation, redlining, disinvestment, and continuing disparities in quality of life experienced by people in majority Black communities and other parts of the city. Still today, people in historically underserved neighborhoods face disproportionate impacts from threats such as increased flooding and rising costs for water and sewer service, while numerous barriers limit access to training and jobs. Past attempts to enhance the quality of life in disadvantaged communities have fueled gentrification and displacement, further eroding community trust, and the economic and health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have hit communities of color hardest, have exacerbated many of these issues.

To address these challenges and advance water equity in Atlanta, the Water Equity Roadmap identifies transformative opportunities for policies and practices actions in four areas of work: equitable decision-making, affordability, workforce development, and climate resilience. As it was developing these recommendations, the Taskforce piloted new strategies for community engagement and workforce development, focusing on planned green infrastructure projects in the Proctor Creek watershed funded by the City’s $14 million Environmental Impact Bond.

“The Atlanta Water Equity Roadmap is an important appendage to our strategic plan, which is our guide to address key challenges such as infrastructure inadequacy, stakeholder engagement, and workforce development,” said DWM Commissioner Mikita Browning. “This is evident with our partnerships with the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, Trust for Public Land, and the Historic Vine City Community with the recently completed Rodney Cook Sr. Park. DWM invested $12 million to install retention ponds and green infrastructure within the park to alleviate localized flooding, enhance the capacity of the combined sewer system, and benefit surrounding communities.”

“Making change requires having racial equity at the center of the conversation,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer for the Partnership for Southern Equity. “And it’s been good to see that the Taskforce’s commitment to this work is not just talk. We look forward to a continued partnership that translates into more change, stronger relationships, and better outcomes for people who have been underserved for far too long.”

“It is inspiring to see how the Atlanta Taskforce has already made progress in advancing water equity, by forging new relationships between the utility and the communities it serves,” said Mami Hara, CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance. “We know that building water equity creates benefits that extend well beyond water systems, strengthening economies and improving residents’ quality of life. The Alliance thanks the Atlanta Water Equity Taskforce for setting a strong example with true community engagement that produces more equitable outcomes.”

This report is part of the Water Equity Taskforce, a network of cities convened by the U.S. Water Alliance that work together to develop more equitable water policies and practices. The Taskforce includes cross-sector teams in the cities of Atlanta, Buffalo, Camden, Cleveland, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. The Alliance has grown the initial Taskforce network into a coalition of nearly 30 cities nationwide, dedicated to advancing water equity in their communities.

Source: U.S. Water Alliance

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