Economic Stimulus Bill Should Include Critical Clean Water Investments

American Rivers calls on Congress to boost funding for green solutions

October 29th, 2008

Betsy Otto, American Rivers, 202.210.7877 (cell)
Amy Kober, American Rivers, 206.213.0330 x23 

Read our testimony at www.AmericanRivers.org/EconomicStimulusTestimony

Washington, DC — Investments in the nation’s clean water infrastructure should be a key part of any economic stimulus bill, American Rivers said today in testimony to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. American Rivers called on Congress to appropriate at least 16 percent of clean water and drinking water infrastructure funding in the form of grants for green strategies in any stimulus bill.

“It’s time for a brand new vision for water,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Nature works best. Whether it’s a natural wetland filtering pollution, or a floodplain absorbing floodwaters, when we let nature work, communities save money and are better prepared to weather droughts and floods.”

Green approaches to clean drinking water, wastewater management, and flood protection are proven, effective, and are cheaper than traditional approaches like dams, levees and underground stormwater tunnels. Unlike their concrete cousins, green approaches provide many benefits that go well beyond their primary purposes and save money, protect environmental quality, and enhance quality of life.

Green strategies create good jobs in many sectors, including plumbing, landscaping, engineering, building, and design. Green solutions also support supply chains and the jobs connected with manufacturing of materials including roof membranes, rain barrels, and permeable pavement. New York City’s broad sustainability plan, PlaNYC, includes investments in green infrastructure to reduce stormwater and sewage and protect drinking water supply. The City estimates that full implementation of PlaNYC will create 4,449 water infrastructure jobs of all types per year.

Green strategies for meeting water needs are smarter environmentally and fiscally, and are already being applied by many forward-looking cities, including New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Toledo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and many others.

American Rivers offered three key goals that should govern future federal water investments:

1) Nature works best: Rivers and streams, wetlands, floodplains, and forests should be viewed as essential and effective components of our water infrastructure. New York City’s $600 million investment in Catskills land protection and restoration did the job of $6 billion in capital costs that would have been needed to construct a water filtration plant as well as $200-300 million in annual operation and maintenance costs

2) Don’t waste money: Spending money wisely means investing in multi-purpose solutions that lower costs and provide more benefits. Recently, the City of Indianapolis announced that by using wetlands, trees, and downspout disconnection to reduce stormwater flows into their combined sewer system, the City will be able to reduce the diameter of the planned new sewer pipe from 33’ to 26’, saving over $300 million.

3) Enhance community safety and security: Climate change and other impacts threaten our clean water supply, and increase risks from floods and droughts. Traditional infrastructure won’t be enough to handle these new stresses. Green infrastructure is more effective and flexible, and will allow communities to be better prepared.

“We urge the Committee, and Congress as a whole, to direct more funding to green solutions that will work best and cheapest in a world dominated by climate change and new economic challenges,” said Wodder.

Across the country, water infrastructure is outmoded and crumbling, and cannot cope with our drinking water, wastewater or flood prevention needs. Water and wastewater systems now receive the lowest grade, a D-, of all infrastructure rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. At the same time, we continue to lose crucial elements of our natural systems streams, wetlands, forests, and floodplains that filter clean water and provide flood protection.

Climate change is already making the problem worse, and scientists predict more frequent and severe droughts and floods as the planet warms.

“We can’t afford to waste money,” said Wodder. “We need to spend more on our water infrastructure, but we also need to spend more wisely. We will make a terrible mistake if we simply rebuild 19th and 20th century water systems that are costly and inflexible. Instead, we need a 21st century approach that integrates green solutions and helps ensure community safety and security.”  


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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.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.