This is the underlying theme in the technology industry. It’s a mantra with a sense of urgency and primal struggle that drives innovation which has fundamentally changed the world many times in the last thirty years. It’s an ‘in your face’ challenge that’s led to the solution of problems previously thought to be unsolvable, some relatively insignificant, and others so massive and complex that they’re hard for mere mortals to fathom.
“Innovate or die.” It may seem melodramatic, but doesn’t this declaration also very succinctly describe what must inevitably become the path of the stormwater industry? It becomes more obvious; doesn’t it, as regional experience in places like Texas, Georgia, Florida and California becomes more widely known and the worldwide water crisis slowly begins to creep into our collective consciousness? We all know the population and urbanization statistics, and on some level even those of us who might like to live in denial, recognize that fresh water is a finite resource. We also know that despite an entrenched delivery model in the US that trivializes water’s worth, stormwater is an incredibly valuable resource.
Isn’t it time that those of us in the industry that deal with water as it hits the ground and makes its way to the aquifer or the sea, let go of our comfortable regulatory ‘cookbooks’ and ‘cut and paste’ design details and take responsibility for solving the critical stormwater problems inherent in our urbanized society? Our industry is generally sedentary, inefficient, backward and ultimately a counterproductive marketplace of regulations, designs and products. It is highly resistant to change, toxic to innovation and far too content with the status quo. Don’t believe it? Put yourself in the position of an outsider, looking in at our industry; honestly, what would you see?
We all share the blame: regulators, manufacturers, distributors, civil engineers, architects, landscape architects, planners and public agencies, all of us. The good news is that we have the power, the expertise and the capacity to change. The question is―have the many downsides of doing things “the way we’ve always done it,” become so apparent that we’re willing to commit to change; to institutionalize the dogged pursuit and adoption of innovation?
I believe it has. I believe we can.
Over the coming weeks, let’s take a closer look at some of the major obstacles to innovation in the world of stormwater and examine some of the key issues we’ll have to address if we want to move our industry from a place where “Innovate Not” is the true reality in which we operate, to an industry where “Innovate or Die” is the refrain that drives innovative new answers in a vibrant, problem-solving, stormwater marketplace.