Cities Should Go Green to Address Crumbling Infrastructure

Sewer overflows, leaky pipes and flooded streets. Many of us have been snarled in traffic due to a water main break or had to stay out of the water due to sewer spills.

As a result, many people recognize the need to invest in our clean and safe water (except maybe Congress, who cut water infrastructure funding in the FY12 budget…). Forbes writes that “2012 is the year America must get serious about our water infrastructure,” and the American Society of Civil Engineers recent “Failure to Act” report demonstrates that letting our pipes, treatment plants and other water infrastructure decline further will have major adverse impacts on the economy, causing losses as much as $4.1 trillion to GDP through 2040.

On the flip side – investing in clean water creates good jobs. As part of a recent report American Rivers released with Green for All, we found that investments in our water infrastructure would yield 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy. In the Chesapeake Bay, projects to reduce polluted stormwater runoff could provide work for 178,000 full-time equivalent jobs across the bay watershed over the next five years.

Investing is important, but how we invest is just as important. In addition to rebuilding our treatment plants and repairing leaking pipes, we should prioritize investing in smart solutions like green infrastructure that cost-effectively reduces polluted runoff, flooding and sewer overflows. Whether using green roofs, green streets or water efficiency, these approaches save money, create jobs and create clean and vibrant communities.

That’s why in response to a recent Washington Post article highlighting crumbling infrastructure, American Rivers President Bob Irvin wrote that cities facing expensive challenges to infrastructure upgrades should look to places like Washington D.C. that are “putting green roofs on new housing developments, improving management of polluted runoff along major thoroughfares…, removing asphalt and planting grass in school yards, and expanding an incentive program for homeowners to use rain barrels, trees and permeable pavement” as such solutions “save money and create jobs while also safeguarding clean water, reducing flooding and beautifying the city.”

So, we agree – let’s get serious about water infrastructure – but let’s get it right and invest in the best combination of solutions that are good for people and rivers.