VUSP Participates in White House Environmental Forum
In October, the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP) was among a number of public and private sector organizations invited to the White House for a one-day forum with the federal Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The event included the announcement of President Obama’s Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda, and more specifically focused on advancing green infrastructure to improve community resilience to climate impacts. Dr. Bridget Wadzuk, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, served as VUSP’s representative.
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CEQ brought these various groups together to open a dialogue,” explains Dr. Wadzuk. “In addition to reporting on what each of us is doing, we were asked to share our ideas and concerns, including how the federal government can help us with stormwater management at the state and municipal levels.”
The advantages of cross-collaboration also were a point of emphasis. To that end, 26 diverse groups used the occasion to announce that they were joining the Administration’s Green Infrastructure Collaborative. New members include environmental organizations, academic institutions, professional associations, utilities and municipalities. Among them is the Mid-Atlantic Green Infrastructure Consortium, composed of Villanova University, North Carolina State University and the University of Maryland. Together with seven related Federal agencies, members of the Collaborative are “committed to expanding the use of green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, permeable pavements, rain water harvesting, land conservation and wetland protection to improve natural management of stormwater.” According to the CEQ’s official fact sheet, members also pledge to work together to “highlight the broad community benefits of green infrastructure including improving air quality, reducing energy use, mitigating climate change, and increasing resilience to climate change impacts.”
Its most recent research grants confirm VUSP’s commitment to the cause. In the past year, the Partnership has been awarded nearly $3 million dollars for stormwater management related research, including a four-year $1 million EPA grant. “VUSP research furthers the initiatives of the Green Infrastructure Collaborative, and fosters federal, state and municipal collaboration,” says Dr. Wadzuk. She also points out that their work is not solely about engineering; there also is a strong social component. This past summer, she received an $800,000 NSF award for the advancement of smart green infrastructure systems. “This research,” says Dr. Wadzuk, “should contribute to substantial advances in how we engineer and live with stormwater and stormwater solutions.” A $565,000 William Penn Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Andrea Welker, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, also points to the human impact of VUSP’s work. Dr. Welker’s funding is supporting the development of a watershed protection strategy to protect and restore critical sources of drinking water for 15 million people.
“The forum presented a great opportunity to learn from others who are similarly committed to this area of research, and to discover ways in which we might work together,” says Dr. Wadzuk. She adds, “I left feeling that the government has a better sense of our needs and they ways in which the ‘federal family’ can help, and I’m hopeful that additional funding may be forthcoming.”