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

Demand for green reserve money well exceeds supply

February 12th, 2010

<p>Liz Garland, 717-763-0742<br />Amy Kober, 206-898-3864</p>

Washington, DC – Communities across Pennsylvania 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 $1.2 billion in 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 also cost effective solutions to address water pollution and water shortages, problems that 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.” Green reserve funding permitted many of these solutions to be implemented in projects across the country.

Projects in Pennsylvania include installing green roofs, disconnecting downspouts, tree planting, and installing cisterns and porous pavement – all designed to limit stormwater pollution. Dr. Jim Segedy, Director of Community Planning for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council described how a project that will install pervious pavement, rain barrels and cisterns to capture stormwater is “a great push for the Ohiopyle community to move forward with their plans to be more sustainable and protect the resources, especially the Youghiogheny River, that make it such a unique and special place.”

“These types of projects help close the gap between funding and water infrastructure needs and also provide multiple benefits to communities,” said Liz Garland, Associate Director for Clean Water in Pennsylvania.

For example, Philadelphia found that using green infrastructure including green roofs and rain gardens to control combined sewer overflows, instead of going with a traditional ‘deep tunnel’ option, increased property values and provided energy savings, green jobs and recreational benefits.

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 reserve funding 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 $25 million for Pennsylvania.

“This represents another excellent opportunity for Pennsylvania to address failing infrastructure by building it smarter using cost-effective, green approaches,” said Garland.

Examples of specific projects that were awarded green reserve funding during FY09 in Pennsylvania include:

Pittsburgh: $1.2 million for Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forests to plant trees and permeable pavers to reduce polluted stormwater runoff from parking lots into the City’s combined sewer overflows.

Lehigh County Government Center: Construction of a 1,350 square foot green roof and a 1,500 gallon storage tank to capture and re-use water for non-potable consumption in the building.

York Township: Creation of innovative stormwater measures at Stump Park near New Salem will include porous asphalt parking lots and several features using plantings and trees to retain runoff and filter pollutants. Ms. Debra Hatley, director of the township’s recreation department, states that “the ability to provide or sustain jobs through the construction process has proven to be a great accomplishment for us.” She touts other benefits: “The innovative use of these BMPs also allowed the Township to build four multipurpose fields, instead of three. These fields will provide us an opportunity to bring in events related to sport tourism, thereby creating an economic benefit for the business sector.”

These Pennsylvania communities are benefitting from unprecedented funding devoted to green infrastructure. American Rivers plays a lead role in the state, helping communities find the correct resources to fund and implement these types of projects. A new report by American Rivers, Funding Green Infrastructure In Pennsylvania: Funding the Future of Stormwater Management, provides guidance to communities responsible for stormwater management and to agencies funding water infrastructure. Visit to read the report.

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; planting trees and installing green roofs, rather than enlarging sewers or building a costly new treatment plant; and retrofitting buildings and homes with water-efficient plumbing 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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