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DC Water today announced the success of both its first green infrastructure (GI) projects in Rock Creek and the innovative Environmental Impact Bond (EIB) that financed them. The intent of the projects and robust evaluation of project outcomes was to establish the effectiveness of green infrastructure in the District and reduce combined sewer and stormwater runoff into Rock Creek, improving the health of waterways in the District.
These projects achieved the goals set in 2016, reducing runoff into Rock Creek by nearly 20 percent. DC Water’s prediction, measurement, and reporting of the outcomes is a signature component of the EIB, the first issuance of its kind in the country. The information gained through performance monitoring resulted in optimizations that will ensure a future for green infrastructure at DC Water.
The proceeds from the EIB provided the upfront capital needed to construct the first GI project in the DC Clean Rivers Project, which involved the installation of 25 acres of bioretention (rain gardens) in planter strips and curb extensions, permeable pavement on streets and alleys, and two green infrastructure parks in the Rock Creek sewershed in Wards 4 and 5.
DC Water achieved the objectives established at the outset of the financing:
Each of these objectives was achieved. Additionally, post-construction monitoring found the green infrastructure reduced stormwater runoff by nearly 20 percent from previous levels, achieving the performance goals.
The rigorous measurement and reporting inherent to the EIB provided DC Water with lessons learned about green infrastructure that can be applied to other projects. In its final report on Rock Creek Project 1, DC Water highlights 15 lessons learned about porous pavement, bioretention, and other green infrastructure facilities, noting “significant information has been learned in terms of design, construction, and monitoring approaches that have added to DC Water’s body of knowledge and expertise related to GI. Collectively, the information gained through the performance monitoring and the resulting optimization allowed DC Water to be responsive, make corrections, and ensure a future for green infrastructure at DC Water.”
Based on these findings, DC Water plans to implement a hybrid approach in the Rock Creek sewershed that blends the best of gray and green infrastructure. The hybrid approach provides the same degree of stormwater control as the all-gray (using traditional engineering techniques) infrastructure alternative, lowers capital costs as compared to the all-gray or all-green alternatives, and will be implemented by 2030, the deadline in the 2016 Consent Decree Modification.
This hybrid approach is accountable to District ratepayers and delivers additional benefits such as more green space for public use and more local green jobs as compared to the all-gray option. DC Water’s ambitious local green jobs program includes training and certification opportunities for District residents interested in GI construction, inspection, and maintenance.
“This financing instrument required analysis at a level not usually performed,” said David L. Gadis, DC Water Chief Executive Officer and General Manager. “Utilities across the country can apply our learnings to their stormwater programs. The information and lessons learned will benefit the entire sector and will inform our future projects as well.”
DC Water CFO Matt Brown added, “This model allowed DC Water to share a portion of the financial risk associated with green infrastructure investment on this scale. Because the projects met the established goals, the District benefits with cleaner waterways and a greener environment. This EIB establishes a replicable and scalable approach to financing green infrastructure for other communities across the country.”
Gadis added, “Another component that serves as a model to utilities nationwide is the local jobs and workforce development program we created in partnership with the Water Environment Federation. We are training and certifying District residents for green jobs and we aim to fill 51 percent of the new jobs created by the GI program with District residents.”
About DC Water
DC Water provides more than 700,000 residents and 21.3 million annual visitors in the District of Columbia with retail water and wastewater (sewer) service. With a total service area of approximately 725 square miles, DC Water also treats wastewater for approximately 1.6 million people in neighboring jurisdictions, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.
The Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is located at the southernmost tip of the District, covering 153 acres along the Potomac River. Blue Plains is the largest advanced wastewater treatment facility in the world and home to North America’s first thermal hydrolysis plant that enables anaerobic digestion to create electricity from wastewater.
The DC Clean Rivers Project is a $2.7 billion program to control combined sewer overflows to its three waterways—the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek— improving the District’s water quality and creating a healthier future for District residents. More information on the Environmental Impact Bond – and hi res images—can be found at dcwater.com/EIB. More information on the Clean Rivers Project can be found at dcwater.com/cleanrivers.
Today, at an event with Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, DC Water Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David L. Gadis, and other local officials, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced a $156 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan to the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water).
DC Water announced a AAA rating by S&P for the upcoming Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. DC Water plans to close on the loan in the coming weeks for approximately $156 million in EPA funding.
October 19, 2020
DC Water announced today that it is partnering with several universities on groundbreaking new research that will save customers money and could improve water quality.
The goal is improved wastewater treatment and DC Water’s concept for improving the technology has the potential to save millions for cities around the world, said Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David L. Gadis.
“Our goal is to reduce energy use and save our customers money while using innovative technology to improve the environment,” explained Mr. Gadis, while praising the partnership with George Washington University, Northwestern University and the University of Queens in Ontario.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded DC Water its ‘Science to Achieve Results grant’ with a three-year timeframe for achieving results. At DC Water, the project is led by Christine deBarbadillo, the director of clean water and technology.
She said the authority has worked well with GW for many years on exploring solutions and upgrades to existing wastewater technology. She also said that the research is focused primarily on finding ways to denitrify wastewater in the Chesapeake Bay area while cutting the chemical and financial costs required to complete the process along with reducing energy consumption.
Removing nitrogen helps prevent harmful algae growth in the water and is a critical element in DC Water’s requirement to clean wastewater to the highest possible level before discharging it back into the Potomac River, where it leads to the Bay.
Nitrogen and phosphorus lead to algal blooms in wastewater. When that happens, the health of marine life, from fish to crabs to dolphins, is jeopardized.
According to deBarbadillo, the typical treatment methods used by DC Water to eliminate nitrogen involves costly equipment and using anammox, which is expensive and consumes a tremendous amount of electricity.
“We are using a different pathway into the nitrogen cycle to more efficiently remove nitrogen and save energy and chemical costs,” deBarbadilo said.
DC Water is also working with the Water Research Foundation on the technology.