Katherine Baer from American Rivers will participate in a Roundtable event today on the report at 12 noon. Visit http://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/2009/07/29/aspen-dialogue-sustainable-water-infrastructure-us for information on the event.
Washington, D.C. -- The nation’s clean water and public health and safety would be much better off with a water infrastructure system that incorporates green solutions, according to a new report by the Aspen Institute, “Sustainable Water Systems: Step One - Redefining the Nation's Infrastructure Challenge.” American Rivers helped craft the report, through participation in the institute’s Dialogue on Sustainable Water Infrastructure in the U.S.
Specifically, the report recommends integrating natural and built water infrastructure, protecting watersheds, and prioritizing federal funding for activities including green infrastructure, climate change adaptation, and research and development. Report recommendations include:
• Redefining water infrastructure to integrate built infrastructure with protection and restoration of the natural water infrastructure;
• Working to remove barriers to water management to allow federal, state, and local governments to address all sources of pollution, degradation, and depletion; and
• Targeting federal investment toward important 21st century priorities including green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, climate change adaptation, research, and demonstration of integrated water management, and targeted assistance to economically distressed households.
“For many, the word infrastructure brings to mind wastewater and drinking water treatment plants, dams, and massive underground tunnels,” said Katherine Baer, senior director for the clean water program at American Rivers. “We need to broaden the definition to include natural infrastructure -- healthy rivers, small streams, wetlands, and floodplains that are often more reliable and cost-effective at providing clean drinking water and natural flood protection. We need to integrate green solutions if we are going to bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century.”
The nation’s water infrastructure is in need of both reinvestment and new approaches:
• The American Society of Civil Engineers gives water and wastewater systems a D-, the lowest grade of any infrastructure category.
• According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every year up to 3.5 million people get sick from contact with sewage from sanitary sewage overflows while swimming or playing in our waterways.
• We lose over six billion gallons of water each day because of leaky, aging pipes.
• In 2006, EPA found that only 28% of the nation’s stream miles were in good condition.
American Rivers promotes green infrastructure and water efficiency, along with other smart solutions, as the most cost-effective, reliable, and flexible way for communities to deal with the impacts of climate change and provide a wide array of valuable benefits to people and wildlife. Green infrastructure approaches to clean water management include using rooftop vegetation to control stormwater and reduce energy use, restoring wetlands to retain floodwater, installing permeable pavement to mimic the way water should naturally flow over the land, and using potable water more efficiently. Such smart infrastructure approaches have far-reaching benefits – they save money, reduce stormwater runoff, sewage overflows, and energy use, recharge drinking water supplies, and create appealing natural areas for community enjoyment. Moreover, they can work at all scales – from the home to the neighborhood to the regional level.
“Clean water is the lifeblood of our communities, yet our nation’s water infrastructure is seriously outdated and climate change is making the situation worse. This report is a great reminder that practical, cost-effective solutions exist now and we must work to implement them,” said Baer.
American Rivers has fought for clean water for decades, and recently was instrumental in securing over $6 billion in federal economic recovery funds for clean water, green infrastructure, and water efficiency. American Rivers was one of four non-profits selected to participate in the Aspen Dialogue, alongside utilities, private water companies, government agencies, and consulting firms.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.