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Innovate or Die


describe the imageThis 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.


I couldn't agree more. To that we mgiht also add the weathered but useful motto, "Lead, or get out of the way!" 
Posted @ Thursday, February 23, 2012 8:28 AM by Scott Crafton
Scott: the biggest barriers to rainfall runoff innovation begins with two wholly unrelated variables: language and people.  
In the first case, let's start by losing the "stormwater" name. You are what you speak, and I have forsaken that term in favour of calling it what it is: rain, and rainfall runoff. I'm in the rainfall business because it connotes that I prevent stormwater. RiverSides believes the path to clean water begins where the rain falls, in your own backyard. That's where we must innovate - wherever or whoever's backyard that is. Lot level capture, P2 and reuse is the highest priority to prevent rainfall from becoming hot, fast and dirty runoff.  
The second barrier to innovation is specifically the people who don't trust people. We all know who "they" are; the decision makers and designers whose shortsightedness considers people unreliable LID partners, maintainers and responsible funders. Establishing a new micro-P3 relationship is crucial to successful distributed runoff reduction. Having due respect for citizen engagement is nowhere in need of a sea-change than the example of rainharvesting. Cities, sewage agencies, even watershed orgs, they all commit a fatal error by distributing useless (tiny), and badly designed crap on the presumption that a "rainbarrel" doesn't deserve to be well designed, because it's only an education tool,or a "conversation starter". So long as we distribute undersized, poorly performing, hard to maintain and ugly little tubs instead of smart, durable and easy to monitor and measure infrastructure , we will forever be trying to stem the bleeding with a band-aid.  
The future begins with smart design and respectful social marketing that brings the lot level owner under the tent of equal, appreciated participants in forging a path to clean water, that begins where the rain falls.
Posted @ Thursday, March 01, 2012 5:21 PM by kevin Mercer
What a great topic and important in an industry which is evolving at wrap speed. The challenges are immense. As one who has develop innovated solutions and experienced resistance let me say thank you to Robert for starting the discussion. Scott has great points. Let me add that legislators and regulators play a critical role as one needs to allow innovation in legislation while the other needs to accept innovation during the design process.
Posted @ Monday, March 05, 2012 9:17 AM by Steve Pandish
Great feedback gentlemen. Watch for more perspectives on this topic, as well as guest bloggers in the coming weeks. I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts as this series on innovation continues.
Posted @ Thursday, March 15, 2012 4:54 PM by Robert Adair
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