Washington, DC -- American Rivers today named Augusta, Maine as one of the nation’s top “water wise” communities protecting clean water and public health with innovative green solutions. The city was chosen for its improvement of river health following the removal of Edwards Dam. The report, “Natural Security: how sustainable water strategies are preparing communities for a changing climate,” comes as Congress is gearing up to consider a climate bill including so-called “adaptation measures” that will help communities get ready for the floods, droughts, and waterborne diseases that come with global warming.
“We are at a transformational moment for our nation’s rivers and water infrastructure, and Augusta is forging the path to a healthier, more secure future,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
When the Edwards Dam was removed in 1999, the Kennebec River began to restore itself. Water quality improved and fish stocks rebounded rapidly. The river’s restoration has created new recreational opportunities, boosted the local economy, and improved the quality of life in Augusta. As climate change threatens clean water and fish and wildlife, a healthy Kennebec River will be better able to adapt to changing conditions and allow Augusta to remain a vibrant community.
Other water-smart communities include:
• Portland, Oregon’s “green street”, eco-roof and downspout disconnection programs, combined with other investments, will dramatically reduce sewage overflows.
• Boston, Massachusetts protected wetlands along the Charles River and as a result saves $40 million in flood damage every year.
• Clayton County, Georgia beat the drought with an innovative water recycling system.
• Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved 49 homes and businesses out of the floodplain to higher ground, and now enjoys better protection from floods.
• Staten Island, New York uses streams and wetlands to help transport and treat stormwater runoff.
• Seattle, Washington’s embrace of water conservation and efficiency has reduced per capita water use 33 percent since 1990.
• Grand Junction, Colorado is cleaning up and reclaiming its rivers as social, economic, and recreational amenities.
“These cities recognize that there is more to water infrastructure than big pipes, dams and levees. They see the value of natural infrastructure like healthy rivers, forests, and wetlands and they are proving that by helping nature, we actually help ourselves. The successes of these water-smart communities prove that green solutions like floodplain restoration and water efficiency are often cheaper, more reliable, and more effective than traditional approaches,” Wodder said.
Even with the most aggressive and successful greenhouse gas reduction efforts, climate change will have profound impacts on the nation’s communities. These impacts will hit rivers and freshwater first and worst. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns will threaten both the quality and quantity of water supplies for drinking, agriculture, and municipal use. Floods will become more frequent and severe. Drought-induced wildfires will threaten communities. The risk of waterborne diseases will rise.
Each of the communities showcased in “Natural Security” is reaping the benefits of green infrastructure – an approach to water management that works with nature, not against it, and has three critical components:
1. Protect healthy landscapes, like forests and small streams, that naturally sustain clean water supplies.
2. Restore degraded landscapes like floodplains and wetlands so they can better store flood water and recharge streams and aquifers.
3. Repair natural water systems in urban settings to capture and use water more wisely, and prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.
“We need a fundamental shift in the way our country manages water,” said Wodder. “This report provides a blueprint for how communities can make the shift away from expensive, unreliable, outdated approaches of the past and toward 21st century solutions that benefit people and the environment.”
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.