Cullman, Ala.

This community of 14,000 boasts the state's most successful speculative building program, which has created almost 8000 jobs over the past decade. When the city decides to construct and market a new building, department heads review and comment on all drawings. Therefore, public works director Pete Nassetta, not the developer, dictates the materials that go into the assets his department will be caring for years from now.

Daphne (Ala.) Utilities

The public water, sewer, and natural gas utility partnered with local company Earth Clean Technologies Inc. to pilot a biodiesel plant using recycled cooking oil as feedstock. The utility collects more than 600 gallons of used cooking oil from residents each month. For less than $1/gallon, it produces high-quality fuel that is then burned in utility trucks and heavy equipment. The glycerin byproduct is used to make colorful hand soaps that act as marketing and education tools about the biodiesel process.

Kathleen Davis

With SAFETEA-LU expiring in 2009, in June the Washington State DOT Highway & Local Programs Division director told the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee how her agency helps cities and counties manage federally approved projects so they receive full reimbursement once completed. WSDOT is certified with the Federal Highway Administration, enabling it to disperse funds on the agency's behalf, and guide local agencies through the labyrinthine process of meeting reimbursement requirements.

J.B. Dill

When he was a youngster, Dill's parents steered clear of Disney World and other traditional vacation spots, instead taking him to more exotic locales: Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea, and the like. There, he saw firsthand how devastating lack of access to potable water could be, and how inadequate solutions—such as shoddy filters—could be. At the ripe old age of 14, he crafted a simple, yet brilliant, water filter out of charcoal wrapped in cloth, both readily available even in impoverished areas. Five years later, the Milwaukee teenager (now attending college in Maine) received a Global Action Award for his potentially lifesaving efforts.

John Dingell

Risking the ire of readers frustrated by federal water regulations, we applaud this 80-year-old environmental warrior's chutzpah. He continues to champion legislation that would reinstate Clean Water Act protections, suspended in 2003, for wetlands, tributaries, and streams. And as chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, the 27-term Detroit Democrat is pushing legislation that would remove 8.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide emission—an amount equal to the annual emissions of all cars on the road today—by 2040. He managed to appease both environmentalists and industry with amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990, so he'll probably find a way to ease public concern over global warming without slowing U.S. economic growth.

Tyler Edmonds

During his brief tenure at the helm of Garden City, Idaho, this 12-year-old Mayor for a Day made recycling a top priority. “If we recycled half of what we threw out, then we could reduce our landfills by 40% to 50%,” he says. Makes sense to us. Edmonds obtained the mayoral position by winning an essay contest held by the full-time mayor. His younger sister, Emily, finished second.

Figg Engineering Group

The firm's cable-stayed bridge cradle system spawned bridge technology that makes it possible to increase the number of strands, thus achieving longer spans.

Rafael Frias

A project engineer with Black & Veatch, he specializes in water supply, stormwater planning and design, hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, and other water and stormwater related areas. He helped create computerized stormwater management modules for Ocala, Fla.—now being implemented—that use innovative techniques to treat stormwater by natural means and minimize disruption in a highly sensitive ground-water setting. He also helped out on an aquifer storage and recovery well program at Lake Okeechobee, which uses surface water pumps and canals to deliver water to the state's entire lower east coast.

Georgia Tech Research Institute's Environmental Radiation Center

Throw away your alpha scintillation detection systems, drinking water managers! An EPA-approved procedure for testing for radium-226 and -228 that requires just hydrochloric acid, barium chloride, sulfuric acid, and a gamma-ray spectrometry system cuts testing time from 8 hours to half an hour. Georgia Tech shares the procedure free of charge, and holds training sessions in Atlanta. Here, senior research scientist Bob Rosson prepares a sample.

Kirk Harris

This Univerity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee adjunct assistant professor is the mastermind behind the nation's first public high school that focuses on architecture and urban planning. Partially funded by a $10,000 federal charter grant and a $50,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the charter school opened its doors for the Fall 2007 semester. He believes the hands-on curriculum will keep more kids in school, get more minorities involved in architecture and urban planning, and foster a sense of community in students.