US Water Infrastructure Transformation Needed to Protect Public Health, Safety, and Save Money

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Andrew Fahlund, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 x3022
Angela Dicianno, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 x3103

US Water Infrastructure Transformation Needed to Protect Public Health, Safety, and Save Money

American Rivers provides recommendations to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

WASHINGTON - Water infrastructure in the United States is deteriorating and needs
a major overhaul to avoid further declines in our clean water supplies
and to deal with the more extreme weather that is coming with global
warming, American Rivers said today in testimony before the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"Water is life. Yet we manage it with 19th Century approaches of
overcoming nature rather than with a 21st Century vision that takes the
best of the built and natural environments.  The new way forward is to
work with nature instead of against it.  Green infrastructure is
gaining favor in cities and counties across America because it is
effective, inexpensive, and because it has many other benefits like
reducing floods or beautifying communities.," said Andrew Fahlund, vice
president for conservation at American Rivers, who spoke at the
Sustainable Wastewater Management hearing before the Subcommittee on
Water Resources and the Environment.

"We need to seriously step up investments in green infrastructure
and water efficiency solutions if we are to protect the health and
safety of our communities. These projects will also create tens of
thousands of good jobs and help boost the economy," said Fahlund.

Fahlund urged the Committee to promote green infrastructure
investments and to hold agencies like the Environmental Protection
Agency accountable for fostering green infrastructure solutions in
their policies. He also recommended that Congress protect natural
infrastructure like wetlands that are critical for clean water by
passing legislation to affirm the historic protections of the Clean
Water Act. And, Fahlund advised the Committee to require consideration
of the climate and energy impacts of all water infrastructure decisions.

In recent years, water quality around the country has deteriorated:

 According
to the EPA, an estimated 1.8 million to 3.5 million people get sick
from recreational contact with sewage from sanitary sewage overflows
every year. The level of sewage pollution in the nation's waterways is
predicted to increase to pre-1970 levels by 2025 the highest ever
recorded.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gives water and
wastewater systems a D-, the lowest grade of any infrastructure
category.   In 2006 the EPA found that only 28 percent of the nation's stream miles were in good condition.

"Investments in green infrastructure and water efficiency will
protect clean water, ensure sustainable water supplies, save money,
create jobs, and safeguard public health and safety for generations to
come," said Fahlund.

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. It means
planting trees and installing green roofs, rather than enlarging sewers
or building a costly new treatment plant. It means restoring
floodplains instead of building taller and taller levees.  And it means
retrofitting buildings and homes with water-efficient plumbing instead
of constructing an expensive water supply dam.

These solutions create good jobs. American Rivers estimates that if
600 U.S. cities installed green roofs on just 1 percent of their large
roofs, over 190,000 jobs would be created. An economic analysis
conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that total
economic output per million dollars of investment in water efficiency
programs is between $2.5 and $2.8 million. It estimates that a direct
investment of $10 billion in water efficiency programs can boost U.S.
employment by 150,000 to 220,000 jobs.

Communities across the country are already benefiting from these solutions:

 New York City's $600 million investment in Catskills land
protection and restoration saved $6 billion in capital costs to
construct a water filtration plant, as well as $200-$300 million in
annual operation and maintenance costs.  By using wetlands, trees
and residential modifications to reduce stormwater flows into their
combined sewer system, Indianapolis is able to reduce the diameter of a
new sewer pipe, saving over $300 million, while also beautifying the
city.  Clayton County, Georgia constructed a wetland system to
receive treated wastewater and recharge reservoirs, and has had a
consistent supply of water through the recent drought. While
surrounding communities had severe water restrictions and saw
reservoirs drop below 50 percent capacity, Clayton County never dipped
below 77 percent of reservoir capacity.

"We have reached a crossroads in how we manage our nation's water,"
said Fahlund. "Traditional water infrastructure will continue to play a
role, but it is designed to solve only a single problem and requires a
huge capital investment. Today, we need green infrastructure solutions
that are cost-effective, flexible, and will meet the needs of the 21st
Century."

Testimony

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American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.

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