American Rivers names GA’s Clayton County one of nation’s top ‘water wise’ communities

Report shows how county is using sustainable water strategies to prepare for climate change

September 17th, 2009

<P>Amy Kober, 206-213-0330 x23 or Will Hewes, 202-347-7550</P>

Washington, DC — American Rivers today named Clayton County, Georgia as one of the nation’s top “water wise” communities protecting clean water and public health with innovative green solutions. The county was chosen for its innovative water recycling system. 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.

“Georgia and the nation are at a transformational moment for rivers and water infrastructure, and Clayton County is forging the path to a healthier, more secure future,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

While most Southeastern communities experienced major water shortages during the 2007-2008 drought, Clayton County was an exception. An innovative water recycling system that filters treated wastewater through a series of constructed wetlands helped the county maintain an abundant water supply throughout the record-setting drought. While nearby Atlanta’s Lake Lanier shrank to a 90-day supply of water, Clayton County maintained a 230-day supply in its reservoirs. As climate change makes precipitation more variable and uncertain, Clayton County’s water capturing and recycling system will ensure a secure and reliable water supply for its residents.

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.
• 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.
• Augusta, Maine is enjoying improved water quality, healthier fish and wildlife and better recreation, thanks to the 1999 removal of Edwards Dam.
• 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.”


About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

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