Legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. establishing the “Cleaner Water Innovation Challenge” to improve the quality and delivery of New Jersey’s drinking water and wastewater systems gained approval from an Assembly panel on Monday.
Specifically, the bill (A-3399) would establish, in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a two-year program to provide grants for the development and promotion of innovative drinking water supply and wastewater infrastructure projects that would improve the quality and functioning of the state’s publicly-owned drinking water supply and wastewater systems.
“This bill is a ‘call to action’ to form a public-private partnership to help solve one of the most important environmental problems facing our state,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Our goal is to combat the decay of critical infrastructure that provides drinking water and treats wastewater before we get to a crisis point in order to protect the health and welfare of our residents and the environment.”
“Safe drinking water is one of the most fundamentally crucial components for a healthier society,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This program is designed to assist forward-thinking, publicly-owned drinking water supply and wastewater facilities that are seeking to develop better, more affordable, and healthier ways to clean, conserve, and deliver water.”
The sponsors noted that technology in this industry is continuously breaking new ground around the country. Companies thinking outside the box are coming up with innovative solutions to address costly infrastructure problems that are otherwise too expensive or complex to tackle.
For example, in Portland, Oregon a hydrokinetics start-up company has pioneered what it calls a “water-to-wire energy recovery solution” that enables large, gravity-fed pipes to produce electric power from an in-pipe turbine that harvests energy from the flow of water inside the pipes.
The bill approved today would make grants available to individuals, businesses, business incubation facilities, not-for-profit corporations, and public and private institutions of higher education to develop and promote innovative technologies that may be used in pilot or demonstration projects at publicly-owned drinking water supply and wastewater infrastructure systems, throughout the state to improve the quality and functioning of those systems.
The bill would appropriate up to $20 million annually, for two years, from the societal benefits charge (commonly referred to as the “Clean Energy Fund”) for the purpose of awarding grants pursuant to this bill. The amount of each grant awarded would be determined by the DEP based on the proposals for innovative technologies it receives and the number of drinking water supply or wastewater systems at which each innovative technology may be implemented as a pilot or demonstration project.
An upgrade or improvement to existing infrastructure would not qualify for a grant unless it is part of a pilot or demonstration project implemented using an innovative new technology.
The bill, which was approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, would take effect immediately upon enactment.