News | August 21, 2014

New Report Explores Role Of Distributed Infrastructure In Achieving Future Resiliency

Recent technological advancements and concerns about sustainability and community resilience have prompted experts to view distributed systems as complementary to centralized infrastructure, and in some situations the preferred alternative, according to a Charting New Waters report released today by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread.

Optimizing the Structure and Scale of Urban Water Infrastructure: Integrating Distributed Systems is the product of a meeting convened by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, which brought together a group of experts to examine the potential for distributed water infrastructure systems to be integrated with or substituted for more traditional water infrastructure.

“We at The Johnson Foundation have been intentionally weaving together the right people with timely and important topics for years because we truly believe in the power strategic collaboration brings in spurring collective action,” said Lynn Broaddus, Director of the Environment Program at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. “Though the conversation about the viability of distributed water infrastructure has been ongoing among experts and advocates for some time, it is now rapidly moving into the mainstream, and I am hopeful that this report can help us tackle some of the fundamental questions about the role of distributed infrastructure in addressing the challenges on the horizon.”

In order to create space for successful integration of distributed infrastructure into existing water systems, the report recommends the following set of principles to helputility managers evaluate alternatives for improving, expanding or revamping their infrastructure:

  • Apply Systems Thinking to Achieve Integrated Cross-Sector Management
  • Maximize Fit-for-Purpose Solutions
  • Balance Human and Ecosystem Needs in a Watershed Context
  • Draw on Relevant Experience from Other Sectors

Alongside the report, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread invited five participants to contribute additional thoughts to its online dialogue, Inspiring Solutions – an online forum to convene, share ideas, and find innovative solutions with sustained impact. Participants were asked to dive deeper into the role of distributed infrastructure. Inspiring Solutions features responses from Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, Deputy General Manager at Clean Water Services; Ralph Exton, Chief Marketing Officer at GE Water & Process Technologies; David Waggonner, Principal at Waggonner & Ball Architects; Matthew Ries, Chief Technology Officer at the Water Environment Federation; and Ed Clerico, President at Natural Systems Utilities.

The dialogue and report are part of Charting New Waters, an initiative of The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, bringing together experts to examine freshwater challenges, successes, innovations and potential solutions that can bridge geographies and inform national policy. Spearheaded by the Foundation for the past six years, Charting New Waters is the work of a diverse group of leaders from business, agriculture, academia and environmental organizations that have publicly committed to improving U.S. freshwater resources by advancing the principles and recommendations of the group. These recommendations were captured in a consensus report: Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges issued in Sept. 2010. Download the report here.

About Johnson Foundation
The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread is dedicated to serving as a catalyst for change by bringing together leading thinkers and inspiring new solutions on major environmental and regional issues. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Johnson Foundation