Saturday, December 27, 2008

Green infrastructure projects can help create jobs

Green infrastructure projects in Wisconsin would create jobs, stimulate economy

December 17, 2008

Green infrastructure projects are critical to stimulating the economy, and American Rivers and its partners have identified 10 examples of ready-to-go projects in Wisconsin worth $100 million that would not only create jobs and jumpstart the economy, but would also improve clean water and boost natural flood protection. American Rivers applauded President-elect Obama and Congress for their efforts on green economic recovery measures and encouraged funding for projects that will bring Wisconsin's and the nation's water infrastructure into the 21st century.

"Clean water is our nation's most vital resource, but our water infrastructure is outdated and crumbling, unable to cope with our drinking water, wastewater, and flood protection needs," said Betsy Otto, vice president of strategic partnerships for American Rivers. "The good news is, investments in green solutions to these water infrastructure problems will create jobs, save money, and protect public health and safety."

In Wisconsin, projects in Milwaukee, River Falls, Brodhead and Baraboo could improve stormwater management in parking lots and alleys, install green or "eco" roofs on buildings to reduce stormwater runoff, and restore wetlands and floodplains to improve flood protection along the Kinnickinnic, Sugar, Menominee and Root rivers.

"In the Milwaukee region alone we have identified $77 million in green infrastructure projects," said Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. "These projects will stimulate this region's economy by putting more people to work. And, by incorporating green infrastructure into the rest of our water quality protection measures, we are better positioned to protect our Lake Michigan."

American Rivers, NRDC, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and The Ferguson Group collected examples of 194 water-related projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia with a total cost of $1.1 Billion that are ready to begin within 6 to 9 months.

"These communities are ready to begin construction on green infrastructure projects but lack the financial resources," said Otto. "Funding these types of projects would provide an immediate stimulus to the economy while ensuring that plentiful clean water will be available in the future to drive economic growth."

American Rivers estimates that if 600 U.S. cities installed green roofs on just 1% of their large roofs, over 190,000 jobs would be created.

An economic analysis conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that total economic output per million dollars of investment in water efficiency programs is between $2.5 and $2.8 million. It estimates that a direct investment of $10 billion in water efficiency programs can boost U.S. employment by 150,000 to 220,000 jobs.

Green infrastructure incorporates natural systems that can help supply clean water, reduce polluted runoff, reduce sewer overflows, minimize flooding and enhance community health and safety. It means restoring floodplains instead of building taller and taller levees. It means planting trees and installing green roofs, rather than enlarging sewers or building a costly new treatment plant. And it means retrofitting buildings and homes with water-efficient plumbing instead of constructing an expensive water supply dam.

Green infrastructure solutions are cheaper and they provide multiple benefits, including lower energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They also create jobs in many sectors that aren't outsourced, including plumbing, landscaping, engineering, building, and design. Green solutions support green tech industries, including supply chains and the jobs connected with manufacturing of materials from low-flow toilets to roof membranes.

"We need to invest more in water infrastructure, but we need to invest more wisely, too." said Otto. "Instead of spending billions to build costly, energy-intensive 19th Century approaches, we should invest in 21st century green infrastructure solutions. We know these work better and cheaper, and the money communities save can be used to hire teachers, police officers, and meet other pressing community needs."

Our country is fast approaching a crisis point when it comes to clean water. The U.S. water infrastructure system is so outmoded and ancient that it cannot cope with our current drinking water, wastewater or flood protection needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded both wastewater and drinking water systems a D-, the lowest ratings of any infrastructure category. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates capital funding needs of at least $500 billion for water and wastewater systems. On top of that, global warming is already causing more floods, droughts and waterborne diseases, further taxing communities' ability to respond.

American Rivers is the leading national organization standing up for healthy rivers so communities can thrive. American Rivers protects and restores America's rivers for the benefit of people, wildlife and nature. Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions. Visit

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