Water Management and Climate Resilience in Pittsburgh: Building a Research Agenda

Water is a precious resource and an integral part of life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rivers and parks bring beauty and enjoyment to Pittsburgh's community and its visitors. Yet, the water system's aging infrastructure cannot keep up with the waste- and stormwater flowing from the 83 surrounding municipalities. It's no surprise that the region faces water quality challenges.

Pittsburgh has one of the worst combined sewer overflow problems in the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency is closely monitoring ALCOSAN's Wet Weather Plan, a portion of which is dedicated to developing green infrastructure and supporting flow reduction. But will these changes be enough? Will they offer better protection against flashfloods and landslides? How much will these investments in health and public safety ultimately cost?

Government agencies, environmental community organizations, and concerned citizens are working together to find the right solution for Pittsburgh. The RAND Corporation has extensive experience conducting research on climate change adaptation, community resilience, infrastructure planning, and robust decisionmaking tools to help manage long-term uncertainty.

Jordan Fischbach is a policy researcher at RAND and a core faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He recently led a two-year storm surge and damage assessment for Louisiana's 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast and is currently working with the Environmental Protection Agency to better account for climate change and other uncertainties in its future water quality planning.

Grant Ervin serves as the sustainability manager for the City of Pittsburgh. Grant brings 15 years of experience to his role, intersecting the worlds of environmental, community and economic development, and infrastructure policy to create innovative and sustainable solutions for local governments, community development organizations, and state agencies.

Brian Jensen is a senior vice president at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where he manages the Strengthening Communities Partnership, and executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh. He has previously served as a Peace Corps volunteer working on village water projects in Liberia.


Lisa Schroeder is president and chief executive officer of Riverlife, a not-for-profit organization established in 1999 by Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy to create a vision and master plan for the city's riverfronts. Under her leadership, A Vision Plan for Pittsburgh's Riverfronts was the winner of the 2002 AIA Honor Award in Urban Planning and Design and the 2002 Merit Award in Planning from the International Downtown Association.