American Rivers Names 8 Water-wise Cities

American Rivers recently highlighted eight of the top U.S. “water wise” communities in its report, “Natural Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies Are Preparing Communities for a Changing Climate.”

“We are at a transformational moment for our nation’s rivers and water infrastructure, and these eight cities are forging the path to a healthier, more secure future,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. “The green solutions are models for communities nationwide that need to prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

The eight cities are:

  • Boston, Mass., protected wetlands along the Charles River and as a result saves $40 million in flood damage every year.
  • Clayton County, Ga., beat the drought with an innovative water recycling system. 
  • Soldiers Grove, Wis., moved 49 homes and businesses out of the floodplain to higher ground and now enjoys better protection from floods.
  • Portland, Oregon’s “green street,” eco-roof, and downspout disconnection programs, combined with other investments, will dramatically reduce sewage overflows.
  • Staten Island, N.Y. uses streams and wetlands to help transport and treat stormwater runoff.
  • Seattle, Washington’s embrace of water conservation and efficiency has reduced per capita water use 33 percent since 1990.
  • Augusta, Maine is enjoying improved water quality, healthier fish and wildlife and better recreation, thanks to the 1999 removal of Edwards Dam.
  • Grand Junction, Colo., is cleaning up and reclaiming its rivers as social, economic, and recreational amenities.

“These cities recognize that there is more to water infrastructure than big pipes, dams, and levees. They see the value of natural infrastructure like healthy rivers, forests, and wetlands and they are proving that by helping nature, we actually help ourselves. Green solutions like floodplain restoration and water efficiency are often cheaper, more reliable, and more effective than traditional approaches,” Wodder said.

Green infrastructure, an approach to water management that works with nature, not against it, has three critical components:

  • Protect healthy landscapes like forests and small streams that naturally sustain clean water supplies.
  • Restore degraded landscapes like floodplains and wetlands so they can better store flood water and recharge streams and aquifers.
  • Repair natural water systems in urban settings to capture and use water more wisely, and prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.

“We need a fundamental shift in the way our country manages water,” said Wodder. “This report provides a blueprint for how communities can make the shift away from expensive, unreliable, outdated approaches of the past and toward 21st century solutions that benefit people and the environment.”