Joanne Mahoney, County executive, Onondaga County, New York
The Challenge Rainwater often overwhelms Syracuse's sewer system, which handles both runoff and household waste, forcing untreated sewage into Onondaga Lake.
How She Tackled It Mahoney created Save the Rain, a rainwater management plan. "Instead of building another sewage plant," she says, "I had a chance to do things differently." Under the plan, streets are paved with porous materials, the county subsidizes green roofs, and residents collect runoff in city-issued barrels. Even the local hockey rink ice is made from recycled rainwater.
The Happy Result: The EPA recently named the region a national leader in green infrastructure design. And by 2018, Mahoney says, "I imagine we'll have open public beaches on Onondaga Lake." —Abbe Wright