There’s a lot to consider with this whole CSO dilemma
Depending on how one tries to tackle this issue, many things have to be taken into consideration.
The choice of Public vs. Private
When it comes to making decisions the city of New York is slow moving, and rightfully so… They have to make sure that whatever type of new green infrastructure that will be implemented doesn’t F up the city. If a solution was to be created at any point of which the city owns, One would have to look for a public, maybe public-private type of relationship. That means 1. The rivers and CSOs. 2. The piping from the CSOs, all the way up to the pipes in each individual building. 3. The storm drains in the streets . While there are many great ideas to propose to the city, it may take years to gain an approval.
Looking at it from the private sector, one can move quickly from idea to actual product/service. The popularity of it amongst the NYC population will determine its usefulness. But how do we get people excited about buying “solutions” to help mitigate the overflow of water into the rivers? To pull this off a major benefit would have to be presented to each customer. “Why should I buy the rainwater capture 3000?”, “Will it help me save money on my water bill?”, “Is it expensive and not really worth it?”. Maybe 1/10 customers will buy it because it actually has a major benefit to the environment, but most won’t. Most will only want to receive a major benefit and rightfully so… If it didn’t benefit them they’d be broke from buying useless things! That’s what late night QVC is for.
So it comes down to this question on deciding between public vs private. Will a play in the public sector make more of an impact for the environment, in a quicker amount of time compared to a play in the private sector?
(Non-)Rivalry & (Non-)Excludability
If we continue on with the public vs private theme, here is my take on rivalry & excludability. If an invention was put in the market to solve CSOs in the public sector it would create non-rivalry and non-excludability situations. Everyone would benefit from an invention created for each storm drain or each pipe or each CSO outfall. The population wouldn’t have to come out of pocket for it, and we would be able to significantly reduce the waste going into our rivers and oceans. This is a total superhero move by the city, taking on the challenge to reduce massive amounts of waste our city puts into nature each day.
But the public sector may never go for it. If an invention was put in the market to solve CSOs in the private sector, exclusion would occur for those that don’t buy this revolutionary product/service. If a product/service becomes a huge hit with people you better bet you will have a few rivals looking to launch a better, cheaper product than what you have (Since when did we have so many electric cars on the road? Oh yeah, after Tesla became a thing). However, the issue of establishing enough of a people/customer base to solve the CSO dilemma must be brought up. Regardless of the competition, if private companies aren’t significantly reducing the problem, we all lose.
Whether you are aiming at the public or private sector, having fragmentation across council districts rather than unity, only complicates things. I do think it’s vital in understanding the boundaries for each district in order to move forward with any innovation. Starting with one district, proving the concept and then moving on to a nearby district can gain significant momentum in rolling out an innovation throughout NYC.
Catchments, Tapering Effects, Point-Specific Services & Externalities (Oh my)
Right now, there are some pretty bad situations in neighborhoods located near CSOs. The Gowanus Canal for example, has seen better days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is not a 1877 Claude Monet I’m showing you here, that’s 2016 NYC sludge and toxins in the Gowanus Canal!
The EPA has stepped in to try and alleviate the problem but its going to take some time. I just feel really bad. People rely on our city to provide infrastructure that works in our best interest. Polluting our own waterways is harming our population and environment and totally goes against the greater good of humanity.
Being that these CSO outfalls are scattered along the waterways of NYC, easily visible, we at least know what we are up against. 450 outfall locations connected to piping that carries sewage and storm water from all of NYC. A solution would have to be created at one or more particular points along this flow.
The Benefits of This Rant
If something can be invented to help with this major CSO issue, our environment, our rivers, would be cleaner than they’ve been in hundreds of years. Our population would no longer have to be concerned with raw sewage invading our lives and most of all, we would be able to create a sustainable future for all of NYC. By helping reduce operating costs at wastewater plants, maximizing storm water usage and lowering water/waste bills for each individual household I can’t see why this couldn’t be a home run for all parties involved!