Putting People to Work, the Green Infrastructure Way

As river advocates, we tend to talk a lot about polluted stormwater runoff, and the need to reduce pollution from our streets, parking lots and roofs that ends up in our rivers every time it rains.  Building more green infrastructure, such as green roofs and rain gardens, is becoming a very promising approach to reducing runoff into our storm sewers and creeks and rivers, so we talk about that a lot too.

Often we focus on the environmental benefits of green infrastructure – cleaner air, cooler streets, recharged aquifers, and, of course, less polluted waters.  We also talk about how it can be less expensive than traditional, concrete solutions, how it can provide money saving energy efficiency, and how it helps reduce flooding costs. 

All of these important facts have been a significant part of our work to advance more protective clean water standards, and so support EPA’s effort to update the nation’s stormwater regulations.  In fact, the name of the coalition that we formed to advocate for protective safegaurds, the “Clean Waters, Healthy Communities” coalition, captures this sense  that preventing runoff pollution through green infrastructure is good for both environmental and community health. 

But the story is bigger than that, because a healthy community isn’t just one with shady streets, clean water and breathable air, it’s one where people have the economic strength to contribute to their community’s success.  Healthy communities are those where residents have well-paying, secure jobs. 

Over the six months American Rivers has partnered with Green for All to promote an understanding that building local green infrastructure can be a powerful investment in job and business creation. We co-released a report showing that investing $190 billion in water infrastructure could create nearly 1.4 million jobs. 

Last week, in a stimulating two day convening hosted by Green for All, I was inspired by the work of organizations like Limitless Vistas and Generation Water who are shaping a green infrastructure future as a way to provide “high road” employment for local residents. 

As American Rivers moves forward to expand the use of green infrastructure, we look forward to contributing to this effort, to building a more prosperous “Healthy Communities” connected by clean rivers.