The challenges facing rivers can feel overwhelming. Climate change, perhaps rivers’ most existential threat, is fueling record-breaking floods and drought. A long history of racial injustice forces the impacts of climate change, along with pollution, dams and other threats, disproportionately on Black, Indigenous, Latino and other communities of color.
Solutions to these challenges exist, we just need to invest in them. This is why we are proposing a comprehensive 2023 River Budget.
“This moment demands bold action for clean water and rivers,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers. “Equitable investment in clean water and healthy rivers is vital to helping solve the interconnected challenges of climate change, injustice and biodiversity loss. American Rivers and our partners urge President Biden and Congress to prioritize these investments.”
The River Budget outlines clear priorities for federal appropriators to improve water infrastructure, restore watersheds, modernize flood management and remove dams to ensure a future of clean water and healthy rivers everywhere, for everyone.
We have broken out our River Budget into four main areas:
Improve water infrastructure
Clean water is something everyone needs, but currently two million people in the U.S. do not have access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water. Native American households are 19 times as likely as white households to lack indoor plumbing; Black and Latino households are twice as likely. Fortifying our nation’s drinking water and wastewater facilities to be resilient and sustainable requires urgent investment, especially in proven solutions like green stormwater infrastructure.
Two examples of funding American Rivers is supporting in this area include:
- $4.4 billion — Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF)
- $3.9 billion — Drinking Water SRF
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Healthy watersheds filter pollution so our communities are healthy, recharge aquifers so we have enough clean water, convey floodwaters to improve public safety, and support natural ecosystems. Healthy rivers and watersheds provide vital connections to culture and heritage. They are crucial migratory routes for fish and wildlife and a recreational haven for hunters and anglers. Conserving and restoring watersheds in a changing climate is essential to slowing and reversing freshwater biodiversity loss. Furthermore, it is the fiscally responsible choice — every $1 million invested in restoring watersheds generates 16 jobs and up to $2.5 million for the economy.
Funding examples include:
- $12 million – Wild and Scenic Rivers programs
- $100 million – Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
- $15 million – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance
Modernize flood management
As floods become more frequent and severe, communities need cost-effective, reliable solutions to protect people and property and safeguard river health. Nature-based solutions protect, restore or mimic natural water systems and provide services like improved water quality and quantity, snowpack/storm flow attenuation, aquifer recharge, and flood control. Nature-based solutions lead to the sustainable management of watersheds, floodplains, wetlands and other water sources to improve ecosystem services for all water users and the environment.
For modernized flood management we support the following programs:
- $2 billion – Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program
- $12.5 million – Engineering With Nature
- $700 million – Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program
- $200 million – Flood Plain Management and Flood Mapping
Remove and rehabilitate dams
Free-flowing, healthy rivers are some of the most valuable habitats on the planet. However, the construction of dams disrupts the natural balance of these ecosystems by impacting water quality, cutting off migration routes, isolating habitats and destroying fish spawning areas, in addition to posing a public safety risk. Removing dams can improve public safety, restore the natural functions of rivers, help endangered fish species, create jobs, protect important environmental and cultural resources, and increase climate resilience.
By investing in the programs outlined in the River Budget, Congress can drive smart, equitable solutions that will benefit our nation for generations to come.
Some of the programs that support dam removal and rehabilitation efforts include:
- $60 million – Community-based Restoration Program
- $200 million – High Hazard Potential Dam Safety Grant Program
- $92 million – National Dam Safety Program
- $30 million – National Fish Passage Program
With proper investment in key infrastructure and resiliency planning, this country can protect rivers for generations to come.