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Forging New Pathways to Improved Water Quality and Climate Resiliency in the Great Lakes

Year Awarded: 2022
Awarded: $1,215,000
Team Leader:  Moonshot Missions

The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) has created a unique opportunity to reinvest in the region’s water infrastructure through state revolving fund (SRF) loans and grants over the next five years. Many water utilities in the Great Lakes basin need significant capital reinvestment, especially those serving smaller and disadvantaged communities, which often lack technical, managerial, and financial resources. This project will catalyze the development and adoption of innovative water technology and management strategies and make them available to Great Lakes communities, especially underserved ones. The project team will help communities plan and implement better, cost-effective solutions to prepare for a different future in anticipation of the effects of climate change across the region.

The Great Lakes Commission estimates that the region’s drinking water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management infrastructure needs exceed $178 billion. Historically, SRF support has been used to replace aging water infrastructure with the same conventional infrastructure. While this approach may improve the performance of some systems, it is unlikely to reduce the burden on ratepayers, which is often unbearably high for small and disadvantaged communities. This is a cycle in need of disruption, and we expect the project team’s efforts to change the trajectories of these communities.

The project team—Moonshot Missions, technical experts, and the partner utilities—will spearhead this disruption by developing “Moonshot Modules” that incorporate natural infrastructure and resiliency solutions while also standardizing, simplifying, and reducing the cost of improvements relevant to many utilities. They will develop, pilot, and then package these Modules at six utilities that represent the diversity of Great Lakes systems and engage communities across the region to expand their impact. As a result of this work, Great Lakes communities will be better equipped to make the investments required to improve their utilities’ environmental performance while reducing their operating, maintenance, and debt service expenses. The project team will expand to include twenty-five more utilities by the end of the project’s term and build a community of practice that will carry these practices across the region.