Projects that would install inverted café umbrellas to collect rainwater in Georgetown or permeable bike paths on streets in Mount Pleasant were among the winners of DC Water’s Green Infrastructure Challenge
The challenge was the first of its kind to reach out to private firms as part of DC Water’s overarching effort to reduce combined sewer overflows during heavy rains. Green infrastructure like roofs and ponds that filter water or rain barrels that help collect it can help take the pressure off the city’s sewer system and reduce the amount of polluted stormwater runoff that makes its way into nearby rivers.
The city is already building a massive, estimated $1.6 billion tunnel system where water overflows can be stored in the future during large rain events. But DC Water General Manager George Hawkins said green infrastructure projects could help take the pressure off of such projects and, in the end, possibly reduce costs to D.C. ratepayers.
“We want the forefront for what’s possible to be done anywhere to be done in D.C.,” Hawkins said.
DC Water put out the call for innovative project ideas from regional firms in April 2013. The seven projects that won Thursday will have the opportunity to submit a request for proposal that their project be the one fully designed and constructed. DC Water will award more than $1 million total to the projects (along with the artful glass water droplet trophies each team received on Thursday).
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray made an appearance at the event to laude Hawkins and DC Water for “taking some of the greatest steps to date towards achieving this goal” of reducing stormwater runoff. Mayor Gray launched his own Sustainable DC initiative two years ago that includes measures like this competition to encourage environmentally minded projects throughout the District (we’ve written about it here
Chris Earley, a principal with Richmond, Va.-based Urban Greening, LLC, said the commitment that the mayor and DC Water have made to these types of innovative projects is unique among cities in the country. While many may be using greener practices on their own city-run projects, only a handful have started looking to the private sector as partners in innovation.
“You don’t usually see this kind of sweat equity and money at this level,” he said at the event, held at the Ronald Reagan Building. “This is kind of the whole enchilada.”
View the winning projects and read more about them at dcwater.com/greenchallenge
. Read about the city’s Clean Rivers Project and the tunnels it’s building at dcwater.com/cleanrivers