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“What’s in My Backyard?” Campaign Connects Underserved Communities with Engineering Solutions

“What’s in My Backyard?” Campaign Connects Underserved Communities with Engineering Solutions

Denver, CO – Community Engineering Corps announced a new campaign called “What’s in My Backyard?” Campaign to connect underserved communities with volunteer engineers to address local infrastructure problems. It is a collaborative, grassroots effort to address acute infrastructure challenges in underserved communities across the country and is made possible by a grant from the United Engineering Foundation (UEF).

Community Engineering Corps (CECorps) is a partnership service program between Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

“Every community deserves reliable infrastructure – it’s key to the quality of people’s lives,” said Clare Haas Claveau, CECorps program director. “Unfortunately, many low-income communities miss out on vital infrastructure projects. The WIMBY campaign allows us to identify and engage interested volunteers from our member organizations and equip them to support communities otherwise unable to obtain engineering services. That’s the beauty of the WIMBY initiative; we unite people with a common desire to make a difference, improve infrastructure and hopefully set in motion a ripple effect.”

In the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, ASCE evaluated and graded American infrastructure as poor and significantly deteriorated. “Infrastructure plays a vital role in the safety and well-being of every American, and ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation a D+ across sixteen categories. It is clear that many communities across our country have significant infrastructure needs,” said Melissa Prelewicz, director of member communities at ASCE and program engineer on the CECorps team.

“AWWA’s 2012 report, “Buried No Longer,” estimates it will cost about $1 trillion over the next 25 years to replace the drinking water infrastructure network in North America,” said Barb Martin, AWWA director of engineering and technical services. “The network spans an estimated 1 million miles, and small systems may face a steeper challenge ahead on water infrastructure replacement and repair when compared with their larger counterparts.”

Recent polling from POLITICO and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health stated that 79 percent of Americans say it is extremely important to increase spending on our nation’s infrastructure.

Community Engineering Corps, celebrating its fifth year, is unique in advancing local infrastructure solutions by providing pro-bono engineering services in partnership with the communities that need it most. For instance, in Grover Hill, Ohio, the town’s collection system is rundown and overflows during storms, which results in sewer backups. Reluctant to raise sewer rates since so many residents are unable to pay, the town was facing many financial hardships. Through CECorps, AWWA’s Ohio Section dispatched a team of volunteers to Grover Hill, where most of the 400 residents are elderly, low-income, and unable to pay for engineering services. The team then produced a 348-page report outlining the technical issues and recommending corrective actions. Seeing the solutions needed, CECorps engineers donated hundreds of hours to the Grover Hills’ wastewater dilemma, paving the way to a grant award of $1M to begin implementation of recommended solutions.

Communities and engineers interested in participating in the WIMBY campaign can find more information on the CECorps’ website.

CECorps is a community-driven program, meaning our volunteers work alongside community members and partner nonprofits to design solutions to community-identified projects. Having community support is critical to success and community engagement is a key component of the CECorps program.

With generous funding from UEF, the WIMBY campaign will further CECorps’ outreach efforts, build its roster of volunteers, and serve more communities across the U.S. The campaign is designed to be collaborative and welcomes the participation of other engineering organizations.