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URC institutions establish pilot project to advance water system improvements across the U.S.
Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC)—an alliance of Michigan State University (MSU), the University of Michigan (U-M) and Wayne State University (WSU)—announced the launch of a collaborative pilot program: the Infrastructure Network for Water (IN-Water).
IN-Water is an initiative focused on moving science-to-practice in addressing aging water infrastructure issues statewide and across the nation. Envisioned as a national network that will, in time, include multiple forms of infrastructure, such as transportation, energy and telecommunications, IN-Water will connect researchers and practitioners through the exchange of ideas for addressing advanced technologies, development of creative solutions, reducing barriers to implementation and the formation of collaborative partnerships.
“The URC continues to conduct cutting-edge research that in turn proves to have real-world implications, impacting not only our state but serving the global community,” said Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin chair in water research for MSU. “We’re proud to be part of this well-deserved focus on protecting our nation’s water resources, which in turn will protect our health through the creation of this infrastructure network.”
In 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that $384 billion is needed in capital improvements over the next 20 years to ensure water systems can provide clean safe water to the American public. As water and wastewater utilities respond to this growing problem, utility professionals are forced to make critical and costly decisions, often in the face of limited data.
In order to make informed cost-effective decisions, there is a need to understand the causes of asset deterioration to better predict failures and implement effective responses. While viewed by some as a problem, this also may represent an opportunity to transition to a newer, higher performing approach, rather than replacing water infrastructure in-kind.
“Aging urban infrastructure is a serious problem facing the nation, and the Flint water crisis is simply one point of proof,” said Glen Daigger, professor of engineering practice in civil and environmental engineering for U-M.
The IN-Water network would provide a much-needed resource for cities struggling with and managing aging water and wastewater infrastructure. The overall mission is to secure a network of experts that will focus on decaying infrastructure in urban areas and promote science to practice across multiple infrastructure systems, including transportation, communications and energy with water as a pilot. Additionally, these experts seek to create a framework linking water quality to health in communities for use in promoting academic, government and private partnerships in the future to address water infrastructure from source to tap.
IN-Water is supported by a two-year, URC-funded grant that includes two phases. The first phase starts March 24, 2017, at the University Club at M-U with one of three workshops to be held at each URC institution.
Each workshop will bring together 30 fellows, who are leaders in water-related and other types of infrastructure from academia, industry, and government, and feature a national speaker with relevant knowledge and experience managing or participating in a national network within their field or industry. The public is welcome to attend a presentation by each featured speaker. Workshop details, including speakers, locations, and dates, can be found on the URC website. Phase Two will include a water colloquium for national invitees and experts to address key questions and discuss best practices for developing this national network of infrastructure experts.
“The significance and impact that clean water and a strong infrastructure has on our state—and the value it provides to society—is obvious,” said Carol Miller, director of WSU’s Healthy Urban Waters program and professor of civil and environmental engineering. “With this understanding, it was a logical decision for these three universities to combine expertise in development of a nation-leading water infrastructure network. We expect IN-Water to play a leading role in the research, maintenance and implementation of numerous technologies and innovations relating to Michigan’s water resources.”
For more information about the URC and the IN-Water program, visit www.urcmich.org.