Advancing Green Infrastructure

While there is a growing national spotlight on the need to reinvest in America’s infrastructure, there is little discussion about how to make smarter investments to protect the water our communities rely on given the threats posed by a changing climate. Using green infrastructure is one example of a smart investment that has multiple benefits for communities.

American Rivers’ Clean Water program works on the local, state, and federal level to promote green infrastructure by advocating for innovative policies and demonstrating effective conservation practices. We advocate for:

  • Increased and reformed federal and state funding that provides incentives for green infrastructure;
  • National right-to-know policies about sewage spills to protect public health while building support for increased investment;
  • Incorporation of green infrastructure requirements into federal and state clean water permits and regulations;
  • Local zoning regulations and ordinances that encourage or require green infrastructure.

We demonstrate and share effective practices by:

  • Installing rain gardens and rain barrels in neighborhoods;
  • Partnering with local governments to sell rain barrels and install rain gardens;
  • Promoting innovative funding techniques;
  • Providing technology transfer on green infrastructure between communities;
  • Teaching local partners to analyze and prioritize local codes and ordinances for change and how to develop effective messages to achieve these changes

Green infrastructure encompasses a wide range of water management practices that reduce polluted stormwater runoff, flooding, and sewer overflows by maintaining or restoring the natural hydrology of an area often through the use of plants and soils that collect and filter runoff, preventing it from polluting streams and rivers. Green infrastructure includes community approaches such as preservation of wetlands and streamside buffers as well as individual practices including rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels. These green practices are often more effective and less expensive than traditional stormwater controls and can enhance the effectiveness of traditional infrastructure by diverting stormwater from overburdened pipes and reducing sewer overflows. Green infrastructure also beautifies communities, creates jobs, and reduces temperatures in urban areas.