American Rivers Helps Redefine Water Infrastructure

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Katherine Baer, American Rivers, 202-347-7550 x3053

American Rivers Helps Redefine Water Infrastructure

Aspen Institute report highlights need for 21st century green solutions

WASHINGTON - The nation's clean water and
public health and safety would be much better off with a water
infrastructure system that incorporates green solutions, according to a
new report by the Aspen Institute, "Sustainable Water Systems: Step One - Redefining the Nation's Infrastructure Challenge."  American Rivers helped craft the report, through participation in the institute's Dialogue on Sustainable Water Infrastructure in the U.S

Specifically, the report recommends integrating natural and built
water infrastructure, protecting watersheds, and prioritizing federal
funding for activities including green infrastructure, climate change
adaptation, and research and development. Report recommendations
include:

  • Redefining water infrastructure to integrate built infrastructure
    with protection and restoration of the natural water infrastructure;
  • Working
    to remove barriers to water management to allow federal, state, and
    local governments to address all sources of pollution, degradation, and
    depletion; and
  • Targeting federal investment toward important 21st
    century priorities including green infrastructure, water and energy
    efficiency, climate change adaptation, research, and demonstration of
    integrated water management, and targeted assistance to economically
    distressed households.

"For many, the word infrastructure brings to mind wastewater and
drinking water treatment plants, dams, and massive underground
tunnels," said Katherine Baer, senior director for the clean water
program at American Rivers.  "We need to broaden the definition to
include natural infrastructure -- healthy rivers, small streams,
wetlands, and floodplains that are often more reliable and
cost-effective at providing clean drinking water and natural flood
protection. We need to integrate green solutions if we are going to
bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century."

The nation's water infrastructure is in need of both reinvestment and new approaches:

  • The
    American Society of Civil Engineers gives water and wastewater systems
    a D-, the lowest grade of any infrastructure category.
  • According
    to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every year up to 3.5
    million people get sick from contact with sewage from sanitary sewage
    overflows while swimming or playing in our waterways.
  • We lose over six billion gallons of water each day because of leaky, aging pipes.
  • In 2006, EPA found that only 28% of the nation's stream miles were in good condition.

American Rivers promotes green infrastructure and water efficiency,
along with other smart solutions, as the most cost-effective, reliable,
and flexible way for communities to deal with the impacts of climate
change and provide a wide array of valuable benefits to people and
wildlife. Green infrastructure approaches to clean water management
include using rooftop vegetation to control stormwater and reduce
energy use, restoring wetlands to retain floodwater, installing
permeable pavement to mimic the way water should naturally flow over
the land, and using potable water more efficiently. Such smart
infrastructure approaches have far-reaching benefits - they save money,
reduce stormwater runoff, sewage overflows, and energy use, recharge
drinking water supplies, and create appealing natural areas for
community enjoyment. Moreover, they can work at all scales - from the
home to the neighborhood to the regional level.

"Clean water is the lifeblood of our communities, yet our nation's
water infrastructure is seriously outdated and climate change is making
the situation worse.  This report is a great reminder that practical,
cost-effective solutions exist now and we must work to implement them,"
said Baer. 

American Rivers has fought for clean water for decades, and recently
was instrumental in securing over $6 billion in federal economic
recovery funds for clean water, green infrastructure, and water
efficiency. American Rivers was one of four non-profits selected to
participate in the Aspen Dialogue, alongside utilities, private water
companies, government agencies, and consulting firms.  

***

Katherine Baer from American Rivers will participate in a Roundtable event today on the report at 12 noon.  Visit http://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/2009/07/29/aspen-dialogue-sustainable-water-infrastructure-us for information on the event.

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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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