NACWA has been at the forefront of efforts to advocate for the use of green infrastructure as one way to address the nation’s clean water challenges that result from wet weather. Just last month, NACWA and NRDC crafted a Green Infrastructure Statement of Support to which nearly 30 organizations have signed on as signatories. As a result of this effort, EPA convened a meeting of the signatory groups this week to come up with a plan for moving the green infrastructure agenda forward.
“NACWA is committed to America’s waters and to greening America’s communities,” Dick Champion, NACWA president and director of the Independence (Mo.) Water Pollution Control Department, said. “Many of NACWA’s cities have implemented green infrastructure with great success. With EPA’s support, we can help more cities ‘go green’ while they control stormwater, combined and separate sewer overflows, and more.’
Green infrastructure includes vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, and rain barrels to capture or divert storm water that otherwise would go directly into the sewer system and uses nature’s own mechanisms for treatment. While these green measures can make a dent in the amount of stormwater entering the sewer system, we must not lose sight of the fact that the nation’s clean water agencies still need the resources to maintain and upgrade their hard infrastructure — the pipes and facilities needed to treat wastewater everyday.
The struggle to meet increasing challenges placed on aging wastewater infrastructure from population growth, strict Clean Water Act requirements, and even the rising cost of construction materials and labor is ongoing. EPA, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) estimate the funding gap between what is currently being spent and what the nation’s clean water utilities need at $300-$500 billion over the next 20 years.
“While the use of green infrastructure is one way to address this gap, it will not by itself solve the problem,” Champion said. “The use of pipes, tanks, and treatment plants will always play a critical role in protecting the health of our nation’s cities and waters. As such it is incumbent on all of us to identify new sources of revenue to maintain our infrastructure.”
NACWA hopes that the good will created by today’s Earth Day celebration will foster cooperation that can help municipalities get the resources they need to protect the water quality of the nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal areas.