“There’s a thread that ties these winners together,” says U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, American Water, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, and Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) in California. “They aren’t just thinking about providing clean water today, but managing it for the future. That kind of ingenuity requires breaking down barriers and cross-collaboration.”

In its fourth year, the U.S. Water Prize is presented by the U.S. Water Alliance to recognize strategies that promote the value of water and the power of innovating and integrating for sustainability. The 2014 awards were sponsored by engineering consultants Brown and Caldwell, CH2M Hill, HDR Inc., and Earth Day Texas. Nominations are reviewed by an independent panel of experts in water and environmental policy.

Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati Executive Director Tony Parrott accepted the award with a story about how the agency addressed a problem many municipalities face. Aging and inadequate infrastructure left Cincinnati with a consent decree whose gray infrastructure solution was beyond the rate-payers ability to pay. The district's green infrastructure program -- Project Groundwork -- saved an estimated $200 million.

“We had to do an enormous massive public involvement piece – 760 town hall meetings in all," says Parrott. " But the solution created community benefits in improved water quality, new jobs and neighborhood revitalization.”

The Ground Water Replenishment System (GWRS) developed by the Orange County Water District (OCWD) and Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) is a great example of applying and benefiting from the “One Water” management approach. The 70 mgd replenishment system is expanding to 100 mgd to boost regional water security.

“This collaboration provides a reliable, drought-proof solution to sustaining water supplies,” says OCSD Chairman Troy Edgar, who accepted the award with OCWD Director Denis Bilodeau. “It's also emerged as one of the most celebrated civil engineering and water reuse projects in the world.”

American Water dedicates more than 20 scientists and $3 million to research that benefits the water and wastewater sectors. “They understood the value of research for our future," says Innovation and Environmental Stewardship Team Director Mark LeChevallier.

Click here for last year's winners.