An Equitable Water Future: Louisville, Kentucky

An Equitable Water Future: Louisville focuses on building equity in the infrastructure workforce, primarily the water sector, in Louisville, Kentucky. Local factors that influence water equity are described, including concentrated vulnerable communities that are disproportionality experiencing aging infrastructure, flooding and climate impacts, and barriers to participating in the local infrastructure workforce. The report outlines recommendations to address these issues that Louisville and other municipalities can take to advance sustainable and equitable utility management.

In recent years, Louisville has experienced flash flooding from increasingly severe precipitation overwhelming the city’s aging flood protection system. The lowest-lying ground is on the city’s west side, where people of color are concentrated - and is also where the worst flooding happens when it rains. As described in the report - in 2017, the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District initiated a Critical Repair and Reinvestment Plan, that will require $4.3 billion over the next 20 years, to address local wastewater- and flooding-related impacts.

The report’s Arenas for Action section describes both practices underway, and details some priority actions that Louisville can take to advance equitable water management. Among the report's recommended actions for advancing equity in the workforce are changes to procurement and hiring policies, and mentoring potential employees from the city's vulnerable communities.

Challenges including vulnerable communities' exposure to climate change impacts are cited as priorities for water and wastewater utilities to address. To support progress in facing compounding issues that are particularly acute for smaller utilities - regional water system partnerships, shared services, and consolidation is recommended. “Regionalizing water and wastewater services involves structural and non-structural methods of capturing economies of scale and improving operational performance among geographically proximate systems.”

This report is based on the framework from An Equitable Water Future - A National Briefing Paper from the U. S. Water Alliance , which explores the implications of water supply stress and management on vulnerable or disadvantaged communities, and the opportunities to build more equitable water systems. The Alliance determined that the focal elements to building water equity are to ensure that all people have access to safe, clean water; benefit from water infrastructure investments; and are climate resilient.

An Equitable Water Future: Louisville was collaboratively developed by members of the Louisville Urban League, Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), Louisville Water Company, Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville Metro Government, Where Opportunity Knox, Jacobs Engineering, with support from the US Water Alliance.


Publication Date: June 26, 2019

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Water Alliance
  • City of Louisville, Kentucky
  • Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Case study
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


Go To Resource