Water Equity Clearinghouse

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Chicago, IL

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) is an organization that works to make cities more sustainable while raising the quality of life for vulnerable populations. Initiatives in transportation, water, climate, and public policy advance these goals, while research and consultations with city leaders and decision makers help find solutions to challenges. CNT also develops a host of data tools and analyses that help policymakers make more informed decisions about how best to support and enhance livability of a community.

CNT is committed to the improvement of public transportation, efficient water management, poverty alleviation through resource efficiency, development around transit hubs, policies that support urban resilience, and actions that adapt to the environmental and economic realities of climate change.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

CNT is attentive to the impacts of climate change, particularly the effects of increased rainfall in many parts of the country. In Chicago, homeowners face several problems resulting from flooding, including water or sewage backup, seepage and moisture in basements, and flooding or standing water in the yard.

To address this, CNT has rolled out a program called RainReady, which helps homeowners transform their properties to better manage stormwater. The program is aimed at lower-income residents, with free tools available online and through community-level funding..

RainReady also works to improve whole communities through stormwater planning processes that prioritize the installation of nature-based solutions, like  pocket parks, wetlands, restoration of tree canopies and river corridors, and improved emergency planning and flood warning systems.

On a slightly larger scale, CNT’s Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard (GIPS) is program that aims to scale up green infrastructure in heavily developed urban areas, ultimately reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering the sewer system. The GIPS program specifically focuses on implementing projects in urban areas that are unlikely to see new development in the near future - without a retrofit program like GIPS, the stormwater problems in these areas will only continue to get worse.

CNT recently started work on a project aimed at tackling the challenge of maintaining water and sewer service affordability as infrastructure investment needs grow. CNT is identifying a variety of infrastructure risks that impact cities throughout the Great Lakes Basin, evaluating the associated prevalence and cost of those risks, and, with an eye toward maintaining affordability, developing a set of financing solutions to increase infrastructure resiliency.

CNT is also a major proponent of EcoDistricts, which are district-scale improvement projects linking energy, transportation, water, land use, and urban agriculture to create a more equitable and efficient system of resources. In Detroit, the Shoreway EcoVillage provides alternative transportation, green housing, and a walkable urban landscape complete with rain gardens, bioswales, and other stormwater resilience projects.

CNT has also consulted for whole cities, as demonstrated by their contribution to the Blueprint for Prosperity. In 2013, Mayor A.C. Wharton made a commitment to reduce poverty in Memphis by 10% within 10 years. CNT was hired to develop economic and environmental strategies that would achieve this goal. Among these were tactics to help households save money on water and energy bills, thus reducing the need for resources as well as reducing poverty.

In addition to providing knowledge and expertise to cities, CNT also puts together reports and papers on subjects such as stormwater calculators and water loss control. These studies investigate the crumbling infrastructure, leaky pipes, and outdated systems that waste roughly 14 percent of America’s daily water consumption. The Water Loss case studies highlight best practices around the country and help water service providers develop cost-effective solutions that are socially and environmentally beneficial.