High Demand for Innovative Water Infrastructure Investment: New Report Details Investment in Green Infrastructure and Water Efficiency

Since the stimulus bill passed almost two years ago, we’ve been closely watching spending of water infrastructure money, specifically the dedicated funding for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, and environmental innovation. Leading up to passage of the stimulus, American Rivers and our partners put together a national ready-to-go list of smart, green infrastructure projects that totaled over $2 billion, so I had been wondering whether that demand had translated into real projects.

Well, it did – in a report American Rivers released today titled Putting Green to Work, we document that demand for these green reserve project well outpaced the availability of money.

As I’ve written before, green infrastructure must be a key part of achieving clean and reliable water and in revitalizing communities. From the site level green roof, to the neighborhood wetland restoration, to the protection of our drinking water sources, truly integrating green infrastructure into our water planning and funding provides benefits in addition to clean and reliable water including reduced flooding, cleaner air, healthier communities, adaptation to a changing climate, and often, cost savings. This new, expanded concept of “water infrastructure” has been well recognized, and that’s why the chance to actually fund these smart investments provided such a good opportunity for communities nationwide –  including water reuse in Raleigh, NC, a green street in Edmonston, MD, and water efficiency retrofits in metro-Atlanta, just to name a few.

Based on a subset of 19 states, our report reveals that:

  • All states were able to use the required 20% of their water infrastructure money on the green project reserve. In the states we examined, on average 28% of funds went to these projects, a major accomplishment considering the time pressures under which states were acting.

High demand can be attributed to both our crumbling infrastructure, but also an interest in innovation. As Bruce Katz from Brookings observes:

“Many of the most forward leaning and innovative program offerings in the recovery package have been hugely over-subscribed by state and local applicants who are clamoring for new approaches… Congress should heed the message of the Recovery Act’s oversubscription. Scores of Washington’s partners in U.S. metropolitan areas are urgently pursuing new priorities and new ways of operating as they seek to put in place the foundation for the next era of productive and sustainable growth…”

We couldn’t agree more and urge Congress to continue funding innovative and smart water infrastructure investments and for EPA and states to continue to refine the use of this money to fund the projects that will have the greatest overall environmental benefit.

For more information: www.americanrivers.org/greenfunding.