For Immediate Release
Governors and Obama Should Make Water Infrastructure a Top Economic Stimulus Priority
Green solutions for clean water and flood protection save money, create jobs, improve public safety
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - American Rivers today called on the National Governors Association
and President-elect Obama to make green solutions for the nation's
water treatment systems, sewers and levees a top economic stimulus
priority that will save money, create jobs, and improve public safety.
Governors from 40 states are meeting with the President-elect today to
discuss economic stimulus measures including infrastructure investments.
"If the economic stimulus plan doesn't include significant
investments in green solutions for our water infrastructure needs, a
once-in-a-century opportunity will be lost," said Betsy Otto, vice
president for strategic partnerships at American Rivers.
Our country is fast approaching a crisis point when it comes to
clean water. The nation's sewer systems, pipes, and levees are outdated
and crumbling, and global warming threatens communities with more
floods, droughts and waterborne diseases. The American Society of Civil
Engineers recently graded the nation's dams a D, and wastewater and
drinking water systems a D-, the lowest grades of any infrastructure
American Rivers applauded the National Governors Association and its
chairman, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, for including
investments in drinking water systems, flood control, and water
reclamation in its economic stimulus recommendations. But while the NGA
proposed $15.2 billion in water infrastructure investments, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency estimates that fixing the nation's
water infrastructure will cost at least $277 billion, and not fixing it
will cost even more.
American Rivers urged the governors and the President-elect to
invest in green infrastructure solutions to cost effectively stretch
investments in water. Green infrastructure can help supply clean water,
reduce polluted runoff, stop sewer overflows, and minimize flooding and
thus enhance community safety.
Green infrastructure incorporates both the natural environment and
engineered systems and provides a wide array of benefits. It means
planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly
new water treatment plant. It means choosing water efficiency instead
of building a new water supply dam. It means restoring floodplains
instead of building taller levees.
"We need to invest more in water infrastructure, but we need to
invest more wisely, too," said Otto. "Making significant, strategic
green investments in our water infrastructure will save money, create
good jobs, and give our country a head start on an important new sector
of the economy."
Green infrastructure creates jobs in many sectors that can't be
outsourced, including plumbing, landscaping, engineering, building, and
design. Green solutions also support supply chains and the jobs
connected with manufacturing of materials from rain barrels to
Many forward-looking cities are already embracing green
infrastructure, including New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San
Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Toledo,
Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, as well as many others.
The following core principles should guide water infrastructure
funding so that proven, cost-effective green solutions are chosen
instead of old, outdated, costly approaches:
Nature works best: Rivers, streams, wetlands, floodplains, and
forests provide a suite of critical services like clean water and flood
protection, and should be viewed as essential and effective components
of our water infrastructure. The reason New York City has great
quality tap water is because the city invested in water protection by
purchasing land around its Catskills reservoirs rather than by building
expensive treatment plants. That strategy ensured that polluted run-off
from roads and lawns doesn't enter the water supply and saved the city
over $6 billion in capital and maintenance costs.
Don't waste money: Spending money wisely means investing in
multi-purpose solutions that lower costs and provide more benefits.
Recently, the City of Indianapolis announced that by using wetlands,
planting trees, and disconnecting downspouts to limit stormwater flows
into its combined sewer system, the city will be able to install much
smaller sewer pipes, saving over $300 million.
Enhance community safety and security: Traditional infrastructure
isn't designed to handle the increased floods and droughts that come
with global warming, so we need a modern approach to protect public
health, safety, and quality of life. Green solutions give communities
the flexibility and security they need. Napa, CA solved flooding
problems by choosing to restore the Napa River's natural channel and
wetlands, rather than lining the river with concrete. The effort has
protected 2,700 homes and prevented $26 million in flood damage each
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