Clean Water Is Worth It Spring 2015


Lee Cain of the Anacostia Watershed Society paddling on the Anacostia River. Photo by Krista Schlyer, iLCP.Lee Cain of the Anacostia Watershed Society paddling on the Anacostia River. Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

Did you know that when there are big rain storms in the D.C. region, polluted runoff and sometimes even raw sewage overflows into local rivers like the Potomac and Anacostia and on into the Bay?!  

The good news is that local communities are investing in projects throughout the watershed that, when complete, will capture this runoff and help meet the pollution-reduction targets in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.

The latest example is in Prince George's County, MD, where it has created an innovative $100 million Clean Water Partnership, which will result in the retrofit of at least 2,000 acres—with installations such as permeable pavers and rain gardens—and ultimately thousands of local jobs. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently noted, "By providing innovative financing support for sustainable and resilient water infrastructure, this collaboration will help the community improve their drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems."

But how will we pay for it? What is unique about the Clean Water Partnership is it bundles many small green infrastructure projects into one, which allows them to finance it using local revenues from the local stormwater fee. Federal funds are also available. The main federal program that provides funding for water infrastructure projects is the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).  

Prince George's County can use this fund when it is ready to construct projects. A private company, Corvias, will manage the design, construction, and long-term maintenance of the project. If Corvias meets targets for efficiencies in construction and success in local business and jobs development, it will have the option to retrofit an additional 2,000 acres.

Unfortunately, President Obama has proposed to cut the CWSRF. Like PG County, Washington D.C. and other local and state governments rely on this fund for financing projects. This is one of many federal programs CBF is fighting for in Congress that help state and local governments afford to make necessary changes to reduce water pollution. 

Clean water is worth it. As noted in the Economics Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake report, the Chesapeake Bay is an economic engine that will provide at least $130 billion in benefits to the region annually when the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. But we will only see these benefits if we can make the necessary investments in projects like the Clean Water Partnership. We are working hard on the Hill to fight for critical federal support for clean water.

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