'Green' Water Infrastructure Bill Relies on Natural Systems

U.S. Reps. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), and Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) introduced the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009. Green Infrastructure is a stormwater management technique that preserves the natural hydrology of an area to help reduce stormwater runoff from hard surfaces.

Green infrastructure techniques rely on natural systems to absorb and filter stormwater in a way that relies on soil and plant life to remove toxins and recharge groundwater supplies. Implementing green infrastructure provides numerous benefits, which include enhancing water resources, protecting the environment, reducing the urban heat island effect, increasing community health, creating green jobs, and saving money through reduced capitol costs.

“Access to clean water is a necessity and must be protected to ensure the future prosperity and well-being of the United States,” said Edwards. “A growing threat to water quality throughout the U.S. is due to polluted stormwater runoff from highly urbanized areas flowing into surface waters without being treated. This is especially true for the 4th Congressional District and metropolitan area bordering the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and ultimately impacting the Chesapeake Bay. If we do not begin to address this problem, water quality gains made over the last 40 years will be lost. Green infrastructure is a proven method that can help address this challenge. The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009 is an innovative, environmental and economically cost-effective approach to manage stormwater flows and improve water quality throughout the nation.”

The bill would establish up to five Centers of Excellence for green infrastructure in the United States charged with conducting research on green infrastructure that is relevant to the geographic region in which the center is located, and provide communities with training and technical assistance on how to implement green infrastructure best management practices. The legislation would also provide incentive funding to help communities develop green infrastructure technologies.

Finally, the legislation would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to examine how green infrastructure approaches can be incorporated into clean water programs including permitting and enforcement.

An October 2008 study by the National Research Council determined that existing federal stormwater programming relies on ineffective stormwater management and enforcement mechanisms. The study recommends that instead of monitoring individual pollutants from various sources, EPA should instead focus on strategies that reduce solid surfaces and overall stormwater flow volume, which can cause pollution as well as physical and biological changes to waterways. The new legislation seeks to implement these recommendations.

The bill is supported by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Natural Resources Defense Council, American Rivers, the American Public Works Association, the Water Environment Federation, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Clean Water Action, and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators.

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