The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Andrew Fahlund, American Rivers, 202-347-7550
Amy Kober, American Rivers, 206-213-0330 x23

Clean Water Must be Top Priority for New Administration and Congress

With infrastructure crumbling and communities at risk, clean water must be top priority for new Administration and Congress


With the nation's sewer systems, pipes, and levees outdated and
crumbling, and with global warming threatening communities with more
intense floods and droughts, water infrastructure must be a top
priority for the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress, American
Rivers said today.

"Our country is reaching a crisis point when it comes to our clean
water supply, and we are woefully unprepared to deal with the floods,
droughts and waterborne diseases that are increasing with global
warming," said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "We need
to make clean water a top priority."

"Fortunately, an Obama Administration and changes in Congress mean
that clean water will get more funding and higher priority than it has
for the last eight years. We look forward to working with Congress and
the Administration to transform America's approach to water. It is a
matter of economic security, jobs, and public health and safety."

American Rivers outlined three key actions for the Obama Administration and Congress:

1. Fight global warming -- Our communities are
experiencing the impacts of global warming first and worst in the water
cycle, whether it is with more frequent floods or more severe droughts,
or increased pollution and water-borne diseases. Congress must pass
cap-and-trade legislation immediately to stop global warming and its
impacts. Some of the revenues from such a program should be invested in
renewable energy technologies, including efficiency, and assisting
low-income people affected by increased energy prices. The rest should
be invested in smart, sustainable solutions to help people and wildlife
adapt to a changing climate, including droughts and floods. The Obama
Administration should also immediately direct all federal agencies with
responsibility for water resources to integrate the best science and
policy to promote responsible adaptation measures.

2. Invest more and invest smarter in water infrastructure --
Our nation's traditional water infrastructure -- treatment plants,
dams, levees and pipes -- is crumbling and outdated, built in a time
when the climate was more predictable. Water and wastewater systems now
receive the lowest grade, a D-, of all infrastructure rated by the
American Society of Civil Engineers. Further, our nation's natural
infrastructure -- wetlands, floodplains, forests, and stream channels
-- has been degraded and neglected. In fact, its enormous contribution
to ensuring abundant clean water and protection from storms and floods
has largely gone unrecognized.

We need to rebuild our infrastructure, with an eye toward faster,
cheaper and more effective solutions to meet current realities. The
best kind of engineering integrates nature rather than fighting
it. Nature works best and cheapest, and provides greater safety and
security than the over-engineered, one-size-fits-all approach of the
last century. We need to make better use of our natural assets like
wetlands and floodplains and we need to use innovative technologies and
tools, which create jobs and save tax dollars. As with energy, we also
need to invest more in using water efficiently always the cheapest
source of new water, and like energy efficiency, creates good jobs that
can't be outsourced. Economic stimulus bills and other infrastructure
legislation must take a 21st century approach that fully integrates
green solutions rather than relegating them to the sidelines.

3. Restore federal protection to our nation's waters --
The Supreme Court's 2006 Rappanos decision has left thousands of river
miles and hundreds of thousands of wetland acres without critical
protections. We need these natural assets more than ever, as they
provide clean abundant water and protection from storms and
floods. Those protections have also ensured that upstream communities
do not threaten the health and well-being of their downstream
neighbors. The progress of the past 35 years toward cleaning up our
nation's rivers and streams is in dire jeopardy. Congress should pass
the Clean Water Restoration Act to ensure that our clean water, health
and safety enjoy the same level of protection they have since 1972.

"Clean water is the most valuable substance on the planet. It is
essential to all life and there is no substitute. And healthy rivers,
with all the services they provide, are one of a community's most
valuable assets. Failure to protect our rivers and clean water today
will lead to serious economic, health, and environmental problems
tomorrow," said Wodder.

"It is time for a new vision for water," said Wodder. "We call on
the Obama Administration and Congress to work with American Rivers on a
21st century approach that incorporates green solutions, and protects
our rivers and communities. The time for action is now."

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.