Seeing Green: Congressional Briefing on Clean Water and Green Infrastructure

Failed dam on the Green River in Massachusetts shows the river flowing around the spillway and through the retaining wall breach.

On Tuesday, American Rivers hosted a Congressional briefing with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) on Tuesday to highlight the economic benefits of incorporating green infrastructure practices solutions to stormwater management.

The briefing, “Reducing Costs and Spurring Job Growth: Using Green Infrastructure Practices to Protect and Restore Clean Water for Communities” featured remarks by Jeff Eger, the Executive Director of the Water Environment Federation; Theodore Scott, Executive Vice President and Founder of Stormwater Maintenance LLC; Tricia Martin, Principal at WE Design and the New York Chapter of ASLA; and Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, Manager of Watershed Programs at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Chair of NACWA’s Stormwater Management Committee.

With over 60 attendees ranging from Congressional staff to staff members at the EPA to members of other non-profit organizations, the briefing showcased the experiences of two small business owners who have seen positive economic impacts from incorporating green infrastructure practices and two leaders in the municipal stormwater and wastewater utility field who have used onsite management of stormwater runoff as a cost-effective way to address problems ranging from combined sewer overflows to flooding.

Jeff Eger kicked off the panel by speaking to his sixteen years of experience as the Executive Director of Sanitation District 1 in Fort Wright, Kentucky where he was instrumental in incorporating green infrastructure into the city’s stormwater management plans. Ted Scott, whose business is based in Maryland, spoke to the ways his firm has been able to grow and capitalize on a shift in paradigm from traditional “gray” approaches to green infrastructure.

Representing another small business, Tricia Martin of WE Design spoke about her experience as a landscape architect and her firm’s work incorporating green infrastructure practices in both publicly and privately owned projects.

Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells followed with a discussion about her work with NEORSD in the City of Cleveland and how they came to the conclusion that incorporating green infrastructure practices to reduce flooding, prevent erosion, and improve water quality was an effective and efficient use of ratepayer dollars. These practices are not only cost-effective, but create added value for community members.

These practitioners are witnessing firsthand the paradigm shift from traditional “gray” approaches to more onsite management of stormwater, capturing rain where it falls instead of moving it out and away for the next downstream community to deal with. Although the panelists represented different fields and sectors from different regions across the country, they all had experienced the multiple economic benefits of green infrastructure practices.

Whether it was the potential for greater permanent employment in the stormwater operations and maintenance field or the cost savings found in using green infrastructure as a targeted way to reduce combined sewer overflows, these practitioners are finding ways to get more green by becoming more green.

Check out ASLA’s coverage of the briefing for a more in-depth discussion of the panelists’ presentations!