Nature-based approaches will meet new water management challenges at lower cost, improve the ecosystem, provide greater resiliency
WASHINGTON, D.C. [Dec. 8, 2015] – The Conservation Leadership Council (CLC) today released a new study examining the role of “green infrastructure,” a new and emerging approach that relies on nature-based systems to address challenges in the water sector. The CLC report, authored by The Horinko Group, asserts that the new approaches will promote ecosystem services, permit greater resiliency and provide water quality and quantity treatment at lower cost than traditional “grey” solutions in the water sector.
“The solutions and policies to address water pollution have evolved over the past 100 years,” said Marianne Horinko, president of The Horinko Group. “The advancements in the collection and treatment of wastewater have vastly improved water quality, but new challenges have emerged, along with new, more environmentally-friendly ways to meet them.”
In 1972, when the Clean Water Act was signed into law by President Nixon, 85 percent of water quality impairments were from traditional point sources of pollution including wastewater and industrial effluent, noted Horinko, with only 15 percent composed of runoff from city streets, suburban lawns and farm fields. Today, she said, “the distribution today is exactly the opposite,” with 85 percent of current water impairments associated with non-point source urban and agricultural stormwater runoff.
The study, entitled “The Role of Green Infrastructure — Nature, Economics, and Resilience,” identifies today’s water management challenges including aging infrastructure, increasing impacts from stormwater runoff pollution, accelerated degradation of coastal areas and a significant lack of funding.
“The traditional method of addressing these challenges – underground storage tanks or concrete bulkheads — represent ‘grey infrastructure,’” said The Horinko Group senior advisor Seth Brown, “while ‘green infrastructure’ utilizes systems that employ natural processes like bioretention, living shorelines and preservation and enhancement of forested upstream areas.”
“These ‘green infrastructure’ approaches protect and enhance ecosystem services, increase resiliency for urban areas and provide water treatment at a lower cost and with a greater economic benefit for an overall increase in investment value for communities,” Brown said.
The study recommends a number of approaches to encourage broader utilization of green infrastructure technologies, including:
• Inclusion of ecosystem services benefits for federal project selection processes in both the Drinking Water and Clean Water regulatory programs;
• Expansion of public-private partnerships and the Property-Assessed Clean Energy Program that can be adopted for green infrastructure;
• Regulatory recognition of the value of green infrastructure in regional- and watershed-based permitting and integrated planning;
• Development of market-based approaches for green infrastructure investments including water quality trading and cost-based threshold grants; and
• Increasing the impact of public capital investments in green infrastructure through leveraging of State Revolving Fund investments and expansion of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
The Conservation Leadership Council advances innovative approaches to America’s environmental challenges through policies rooted in fiscal responsibility, limited government, market entrepreneurship, community leadership and public-private partnerships.
The Horinko Group is a Washington, D.C.-based environmental consulting firm that operates at the intersection of policy, science, and communications.
To view the study in its entirety, and other CLC reports, visit: http://www.leadingwithconservation.org/reports/