Propping the Window Open - Cultivating Equity in Water Infrastructure
Don Nelson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Georgia.
US water infrastructure is not keeping pace with changing hydrological risks and the increasing frequency and magnitude of natural hazard events disproportionately impacts historically marginalized populations. The conventional response is to build higher and stronger. But, there is increased awareness of the limitations and the broader undesirability of this narrow approach. The current push from practitioners and legislators alike for Nature-Based Solutions opens a window of opportunity for radically redefining water infrastructure and the processes by which it is scoped, designed, planned, and implemented. Through the Network for Engineering with Nature, the Institute of Resilient Infrastructure Systems at UGA is partnered with the US Army Corp of Engineers to do just this. This talk focuses on one aspect of the collaboration - how to move from broad calls for infrastructure equity, to project-level processes that cultivate equity throughout. The interdisciplinary team of social scientists and engineers is cognizant that equity requires society-wide change, but also identifies steps that can be taken now to promote equity and prop open the window of opportunity to ensure time for broader systemic change to occur.