By Stephanie Johnston
Ironically — or maybe not, given the status of infrastructure vis-à-vis other publicly funded services such as education, safety, and health care — a discussion about sustainability ultimately becomes a discussion about resources.
Just when residents and elected officials are most interested in how public works affects quality of life, operations have the least amount of funding and staffing to invest in much beyond extending the utility of existing assets and satisfying regulatory imperatives.
The American Public Works Association defines sustainability as “seeking a balanced approach for a vibrant community today and tomorrow by delivering services and infrastructure in an environmentally and socially responsible way and that ensure the best economic choice in the long term.” Because a community is a system, the association encourages managers to take an integrated, whole-systems approach to their work. The association's sustainability conference in June walked attendees through the process of defining, articulating, leading, and measuring the results of such an operation.