Partnership and community collaboration improves city’s water challenges

The New Jersey One Water Awards honor projects that demonstrate great water management. Winners illustrate the One Water ideal by valuing and making use of all water, whether it’s drinking water, stormwater, or wastewater. The awards program is sponsored by five organizations: American Water Resources Association’s New Jersey section, American Water Works Association’s New Jersey section, Association of Environmental Authorities, Jersey Water Works, and New Jersey Water Environment Association. Read about the winners announced for the 3rd annual New Jersey One Water Awards.

Partnership between American Water and the City of Camden

Camden is home to a vibrant arts scene, a World War II battleship, and popular waterfront attractions. It’s also home to flooding, aging water infrastructure, and combined sewer overflows. To address its water challenges, the City of Camden partnered with American Water to operate and maintain drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. This public-private partnership has substantially improved the city’s water management. 

To reduce flooding in the high-profile Downtown Riverfront area, American Water implemented a wet weather operations procedure and enhanced coordination with Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority. Another area of concern for Camden was a high unaccounted-for water loss. Water loss is a sign that our water infrastructure is not performing efficiently, effectively, or to its full potential. Reducing leaks and unaccounted-for loss helps save money and ensure that systems are more sustainable and resilient. American Water identified and addressed large water losses from potable leaks flowing into adjacent sewers. The company also analyzed previously unbilled account connections and evaluated water audit data for municipal uses like parks, recreation, fire, and cleaning. Finally, American Water improved meter performance and resolved billing discrepancies. Taken together, all of these steps significantly reduced water loss. This made the drinking water system more efficient and reduced its cost.

 While constructing its Camden headquarters in 2018, American Water developed a Community Investment Agreement with the city to invest in local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and training. This involved community outreach, sustainability initiatives, and workforce development. That same year, American Water provided a $200,000 grant through its Charitable Foundation to the Camden City School District for the construction of a new STEM lab at Woodrow Wilson High School. The water workforce is aging and does not

Representatives from American Water and the City of Camden accept their award at the Jersey Water Works Conference on Dec. 13.

represent the demographics of its customers, providing an opportunity to bring in new talent and economic growth in communities like Camden.  

American Water further supported local workforce development through its partnership with Hopeworks, a non-profit that works with Camden youth on career development. This collaborative effort trained 60 young adults on Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping projects for American Water. Fifty-two graduated from the program, completed college, and went on to use their new skills to gain permanent employment. Of the eight graduates who are employed in a GIS-related field, four work at American Water. American Water is expanding this partnership with Hopeworks to provide GIS support services in support of the Camden/American Water Operation & Management partnership. During American Water’s Month of Service last September, 270 employees volunteered 1,100 hours throughout the city to support local nonprofits.

American Water participated on the US Water Alliance’s Water Equity Task Force in Camden by supporting community meetings and educational events about local water quality. In turn, the Task Force assisted American Water in connecting with residents to have valuable conversations about water quality and barriers to access. This cross-sector collaboration was essential for engaging with the community to continue improving Camden’s water future. The City of Camden’s ability to facilitate partnerships has led to growth, investment, and collaboration on projects that are leading to a vibrant community with engaged residents. Camden’s water challenges are similar to older cities and across the country. Its collaboration with American Water establishes a model for successful public-private partnerships that address water challenges and enhance residents’ quality of life.

Project Partners: City of Camden; American Water; American Water Operations and Maintenance, LLC; Camden City School District; Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority; Cooper’s Ferry Partnership; Buchart Horn, Inc.; DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP; Hopeworks; US Water Alliance

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