Back in 1999, Cranberry absorbed the formerly independent Municipal Sewer & Water Authority into various Township departments. The primary reason was that the Township’s plans for growth and those of the Authority were often going in different directions. You can’t have a successful growing community if you don’t coordinate the development of its sewer and water services with the rest of its growth. So we consolidated the two organizations, and for more than ten years now, they’ve been in synch.
But there’s also a third piece of the Township’s water puzzle: stormwater. We alluded to it in the Annual Water Quality report which was recently mailed to local residents. In essence, it’s a system which has been designed to meet federal and state regulations, as well as those of our Board of Supervisors. Its most important functions are to minimize the risk of flooding and to protect the quality of surface water which enters our waterways and ultimately into the sources that provide our freshwater. That system is comprised of both privately and publicly owned components – storm drains, catch basins, culverts, detention ponds, swales and so on. Collectively, they represent a high-value asset.
Unlike either our fresh water or waste water systems, there is no stormwater metering and no one pays any fees for the system’s use. It’s very easy for people to think of it as just a catch basin leading into a nearby detention pond. But the fact is that every catch basin, every detention basin and the hundreds of miles of pipes and discharge points along the way are parts of a carefully engineered system. They function as a community-wide network that benefits every house and business in the Township, as well as those downstream of Cranberry. It’s worked that way for years.
Today, however, we are in a much more intense regulatory environment regarding the management of stormwater. There are now new state and federal regulations, with code names like MS4 and 167, which have raised the bar on handling stormwater. At the same time, though, the responsibility for implementing and maintaining those systems has been shifted onto local government, but without providing them the resources to do so. I’ve commented on the issue of unfunded mandates in this blog before, and it’s still a major issue.
Yet in spite of this frustration, our Board of Supervisors takes that responsibility seriously and cares deeply about the long-term health and sustainability of our community. It’s partly a reflection of the fact that local government is the most responsive unit of government because it’s closest to the citizens. But it’s also because our Board is keenly aware of what is happening in other communities, where the opposite approach has been taken. Our Board has made it clear they will not tolerate that culture of finger-pointing, irresponsibility, and refusing to find collaborative solutions of governing.
So, consistent with that philosophy, and in keeping with our disciplined approach to infrastructure development and operation, we’ve come to see our responsibility for stormwater management in much the same way we had previously thought about our fresh water and wastewater systems. We’re now referring to the three systems collectively as “Cranberry Township Waterworks.” It’s a reflection of the comprehensive approach that Cranberry is taking to manage water – our most important and life-sustaining commodity.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Cranberry’s Waterworks concept. You can email me at: email@example.com