January 31 was a watershed moment for the Toledo region. On that day, the leaders of nine communities made the decision to break from the past and look to the future by creating the Toledo Area Water Authority, or TAWA. Less than a year ago, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce stepped forward to identify and fund an independent facilitator to guide the development of a new regionally governed water authority. It was imperative for success to bring in someone from outside the region with industry experience. And that is exactly what the Chamber did. Over the past eight months, representatives from the cities of Toledo, Sylvania, Maumee, and Perrysburg; the counties of Lucas, Fulton and Monroe; the Village of Whitehouse and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District met to build the framework for regional collaboration on water. These discussions were intense, substantial, and most important, productive. Why TAWA? TAWA is a commitment to a professionally managed water utility. It will be overseen by a seven member board made up of individuals representing the various communities. Five of the seven individuals will be required to have professional qualifications in order to be appointed. This will de-politicize water and end the past practices of using water to control development in the region. TAWA is a commitment to using industry standards and best management practices. This means that future water rates will be based on the actual cost to treat the water and deliver it to your home or business. Future infrastructure needs will be addressed with a clear plan to improve facilities to keep them up to date. TAWA is a commitment to equitable rates. Over the next eight years, rates in some communities will increase and others will decrease. During this time, a smooth transition will take place to avoid drastic changes in rates. This transition is based on the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments Technical Subcommittee recommendations to equalize the cost of water. A cost of service analysis will be performed to inform how the transition of rates may be adjusted. TAWA is a commitment to public health. Under TAWA, there will be an intentional effort and funding to replace lead service lines and reduce the potential of lead contamination of our water supply. This protects everyone by ensuring the safe delivery of water. TAWA is a commitment to assisting low income families. A financial assistance program will be developed to assist those in paying their water bill. This benefits everyone because reducing the amount of uncollectable debt will help to keep rates lower for all users. TAWA is a commitment to redundancy. A secondary water source will be identified and made part of the system so that the flow of clean, safe water is maintained. This means looking beyond just another intake in Lake Erie or building another plant, and possibly collaborating with an existing system in the region. TAWA is a commitment to becoming an employer of choice in the water industry. Current water treatment, distribution and support employees will transfer to TAWA under the direction of the professional board. There is a commitment to a compensation study to ensure employees are paid according to industry standards, training and safety. Employees will continue to be represented by labor. TAWA will be a new, independent authority to manage the water resources of the region. There is a commitment to strategic planning to determine the efficiencies of incorporating other drinking water systems and the potential to also manage wastewater and storm water. To ensure that these commitments are followed through with by the new board, a transition group consisting of the leaders who developed the framework will work with the board to implement their intent. The leaders of these communities should be commended for showing leadership and the courage to do something different that will benefit not just their communities, but the entire region for generations to come. The Toledo Area Water Authority will provide the roadmap for future collaboration in the region. The Chamber looks forward to further engagement with TAWA and communities to make the Toledo region the national leader in water resource management.