One year later, North Carolina’s clean water benefits from stimulus spending

Demand for green reserve money well exceeds supply

February 16th, 2010

<p>Peter Raabe, American Rivers, 919-682-3500</p>

Washington, DC – Communities across North Carolina are reaping the benefits of federal economic stimulus funds, one year after President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. American Rivers helped secure the $6 billion for clean water and drinking water, including specific funding for green infrastructure and water efficiency. American Rivers has done an initial analysis of the impacts of this “green reserve” spending.

In a survey of 16 states, American Rivers found that demand for green reserve projects from the clean water state revolving fund exceeded availability by an average of at least 1.5 times and demand for the drinking water state revolving fund exceeded availability by an average of at least 1.2 times.

“Green infrastructure and water efficiency are proving to be smart investments,” said Katherine Baer, senior director for clean water at American Rivers. “They are cost effective solutions to addressing water pollution and water shortages, which will only increase with climate change. Communities are eager to improve their water infrastructure and American Rivers is committed to helping them find 21st century green solutions.”

Projects in North Carolina include ones that focus on rainwater capture and reuse – all designed to limit water pollution.  These projects use innovative technology to restore the natural processes that clean and purify our water. 

The City of Raleigh and Wake County partnered to develop a project that would retrofit 10 firehouses and one Emergency Medical Service (EMS) station with large capacity cisterns and rain gardens.  Each facility will get two to four cisterns with a capacity of 2,000-4,000 gallons.  These cisterns will allow the stations to reuse the water for vehicle maintenance and irrigation, while one of the fire companies is planning to refill its 1,500 gallon water tanks with the captured rainwater for use in fighting fires.  The rain gardens and other natural areas around the stations will be used to capture and filter the runoff from the maintenance washing of the trucks at those stations.  The combination of rainwater harvesting and natural filtration through the rain gardens will reduce polluted runoff during storm events and increase efficiency by reducing the demand on the public water supply year round. 

The city and county received $278,000 in federal stimulus funding through the CW SRF and state matching money of $125,000 to complete the project.  These funds will not only employ local people for the installation but are building the North Carolina green economy by contracting with firms based in North Carolina- Fluvial Solutions, Inc. of Raleigh and Cape Fear Rain Water Harvesting, Inc of Wilmington.
“Our community will reap several benefits through this innovative project. Water pollution into streams will be reduced because large volumes of rainwater will be harvested for reuse instead of entering the water pollution cycle.  These eleven different sites will also serve as water conservation demonstration sites for residents to visit.  We’re excited that funding was made available in the federal stimulus bill to prioritize these types of green projects,” said Amy Hathaway, Project Engineer with the City of Raleigh. “This represents another excellent opportunity for North Carolina to utilize innovative techniques to reduce the demand on our drinking water supplies by investing in cost-effective solutions.”

While jobs data is not yet available, these projects can create good jobs. American Rivers estimates that covering even 1% of large buildings in America’s medium- to large-sized cities with green roofs will create over 190,000 jobs, and the Alliance for Water Efficiency found that a $10 billion investment in water efficiency projects would create 150,000-222,000 jobs and save 6.5-10 trillion gallons of water. In Maryland, a single green street to reduce flooding and pollution is estimated to create or preserve 50 jobs.

American Rivers will continue its analysis of the spending to better evaluate the program to ensure best results. This green funding set aside has been continued for FY10, and there is now almost $700 million available nationwide for projects including green roofs, green streets, and water efficiency including approximately $16 million for North Carolina.

“North Carolina was able to efficiently work through the federal process and get their entire allocation of Green Reserve funding out the door to create jobs that benefit water quantity and quality,” said Peter Raabe, NC Conservation Director for American Rivers. “This green funding stream is now a fixture in the federal clean water program and North Carolina and communities like Raleigh were able to be early adopters of the modern sustainable clean water projects.”

Green infrastructure incorporates natural systems that can help supply clean water, reduce polluted runoff, reduce sewer overflows, minimize flooding and enhance community health and safety. Examples include restoring floodplains instead of building taller levees and planting trees and installing green roofs, rather than enlarging sewers or building a costly new treatment plant. Water efficiency provides long term water security by making use of the water we already have to sustain our communities and ecosystems. Examples include replacing wasteful outdated infrastructure in our homes, businesses, and communities with more efficient toilets, pipes, cooling systems instead of constructing an expensive water supply dam.

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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.

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