Forum

Local government can't sweep Pittsburgh's water problems under rug

Many Tartan readers may not know that Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon has been heading a Regional Water Management Task Force to study the city’s many water problems.

From 2006 to 2009, the task force gathered data on sewage problems, storm water overflows, and the like in an effort to propose a viable water management solution to southwestern Pennsylvania governments. After the region’s recent floods, Cohon and Tyler Gourley, a policy strategist, wrote an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette detailing their diagnosis and solution for many of the city’s water problems.

The gist of the article is that Pittsburgh’s water management is too fractured, with too many organizations overlapping and failing to communicate. The solution: consolidate overhead. The task force recommends an 11-county super-district that would centrally control and plan water management, including quality, supply, flooding prevention, sewage disposal, and pollution control.

Consolidating water management in the area seems like a smart idea, and Cohon’s argument for it is quite strong. But must we wait until local and regional politicians can come together and agree on an efficient plan?
With multiple buildings flooded at the start of this school year and also in the summer of 2009, we wonder if we must continue to hope for system-wide changes while our own basements, labs, parking garages, and storage facilities undergo annual flooding.

While consolidation would certainly be good for the system at large, we bet it won’t immediately compel the clearly ancient and poorly maintained pipes under campus to stop breaking. We appreciate Cohon dedicating four years to analyzing the region’s issues, but we also want something to be done in our own backyard before campus is reduced to a pile of soggy belongings, sewage, and swamp.