Louisville leaders release first-ever water equity roadmap 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and leaders from the city’s water and sewer utilities, transit agency and workforce development organizations, in partnership with the US Water Alliance, recently released “An Equitable Water Future: Louisville.” The report describes strategies for expanding opportunities in Louisville’s infrastructure workforce and contracting practices.

The report is available online here.

The report was collaboratively developed by leaders from the Louisville Urban League, Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), Louisville Water Company, Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville Metro Government, Where Opportunity Knox, Jacobs Engineering, with support from the US Water Alliance. This work builds on Louisville’s participation in the 2018 Brookings Institution study, Renewing the Water Workforce, which outlined infrastructure workforce challenges and general recommendations for addressing them.

“As we continue investing in our infrastructure, it’s important to make sure all citizens have opportunities to benefit from those investments,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “That’s what the recommendations in this report are intended to do. I’m proud of how our local agencies have collaborated to seize the workforce opportunity tied to investing in our infrastructure, and I appreciate their continued efforts toward implementing these recommendations.”

Louisville’s vulnerable communities face a range of challenges related to water, from aging infrastructure and affordability. Low-income people and communities of color in Louisville have historically been affected by a legacy of redlining, and today are disproportionately impacted by water affordability, aging infrastructure, and flooding issues, as well as barriers to participating in the local infrastructure workforce and contracting opportunities. Among the report’s recommended actions are changes to procurement and hiring policies, as well as more intensive cross-agency collaboration on workforce and skills training and mentoring potential employees from the city’s vulnerable communities.

According to Tony Parrott, Louisville MSD’s executive director, “Water has the power to put people to work. At MSD, we’ve been making good progress toward understanding and tackling the barriers to workforce participation and contracting that confront minorities and low-income residents. This roadmap lays out specific steps we can take, at MSD and beyond, to deepen our impact. We’ll keep driving to make sure all Louisville’s residents have access to the economic benefits resulting from our community’s investments in infrastructure.”

“We’re proud of Louisville’s water and sewer agencies for leading the way on workforce equity, taking an honest look at existing inequities and working to include our most vulnerable,” added Sadiqa Reynolds, CEO of Louisville Urban League. “The policy change and inter-agency collaboration recommended in this roadmap will translate into better workforce access for the people who stand to benefit the most.”

“An Equitable Water Future: Louisville” discusses local factors that influence water equity. While the primary focus is on the infrastructure workforce, the report also explores local issues around water affordability, aging infrastructure, flooding and climate impacts, and funding constraints. For each of these areas, the report outlines recommendations that agencies and organizations in Louisville can take to advance equitable water management.

“The challenges facing Louisville’s vulnerable communities are significant, but we can help people thrive by expanding access to water workforce and contracting opportunities. I applaud Louisville’s leaders for recognizing the benefits of working toward greater social equity, and I’m proud of the Louisville Water Equity Taskforce for setting a course to grow opportunities for all,” said Radhika Fox, CEO of the US Water Alliance.

This report is part of the Water Equity Taskforce, a network of cities convened by the US Water Alliance that work together to develop more equitable water policies and practices. The Taskforce comprises cross-sector teams in the cities of Atlanta, Buffalo, Camden, Cleveland, Louisville, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

For more information on the Water Equity Taskforce project, visit http://uswateralliance.org/initiatives/water-equity/taskforce.

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