Hinesville is one of 394 U.S. cities entering New York mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor Challenge, which is intended to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas to solve challenges and improve urban life, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Bloomberg Mayors Challenge has participating cities from 47 states, representing more than 71 million Americans. These include 77 of the country’s largest cities, although 58 percent of participating cities have populations below 100,000, he added.
Cities with 30,000 or more residents were invited to participate. According to the 2010 Census, Hinesville’s population is nearly 34,000.
There will be one grand prize of $5 million and four $1 million prizes awarded to those cities whose innovative solutions show vision and novelty, potential for impact, potential for replication by other cities and overall quality of the implementation plans.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said among many innovative programs conducted by the city, he plans to focus the city’s application on its reused-water program.
“We’re going to talk about our reused wastewater system,” said Thomas, who added he wants to be careful not to disclose too much about the program. “Basically, when we brought the new wastewater-treatment plant at Fort Stewart online a couple years ago, we found we could encourage people not to use the city’s drinking water for commercial car washes or irrigating lawns, golf courses and playing fields by offering a safe, cheaper water source.”
Thomas explained the wastewater is treated through high levels of filtration and disinfecting processes and is safe for “non-drinking” purposes.
Using recycled water for irrigation and non-drinking purposes saves the city both through the cheaper reused water and the conservation of water, he said. According to the city’s website, Hinesville’s reused water program follows U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
“The reused-water program saves the customer because it cost less to treat and so we can sell it for less, and it saves the city for the overall amount of water used,” the mayor said. “Right now, we don’t see the need for water conservation, but as Hinesville grows, the demand for water will be greater on our water aquifer, so our reused-water program will be an even greater benefit in the future.”
Thomas said the city’s reused-water program already saves the city and its water customers money while also saving a valuable resource — water.
The top 20 finalists will be announced this fall. Representatives from each city then will go to New York for a two-day camp to collaborate and improve each other’s ideas. They will receive individualized coaching from experts to repackage their ideas for final submission, he said.
The winners will be announced in spring 2013.