PLAN EMPHASIZES CLIMATE RESILIENCE, WATER INFRASTRUCTURE, EQUITY AND JOB DEVELOPMENT
The Biden Administration just unveiled its $2 trillion infrastructure plan which heavily underscores adapting our infrastructure to the ever-growing climate crisis. Among other priorities, the plan emphasizes adapting to climate change, including renewing water infrastructure, while investing in historically marginalized communities and fueling jobs and workforce development. The 65 communities of the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange are poised to meet these multiple objectives using green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) – a nature-based approach for improving water quality and mitigating flooding.
Prioritizing Climate Change
In 2020, the United States faced 22 major weather and climate disasters, costing $95 billion in damages. The infrastructure plan lays out multiple ways to make our systems more resilient and reduce our vulnerability to increasingly destructive climate patterns, including $35 billion for “technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis.” Key strategies include protecting and restoring nature-based infrastructure. (2)
Ensuring Sustainable Water Infrastructure
Aging water and stormwater systems threaten public safety and health in thousands of communities nationwide. (2) The American Society of Civil Engineers gave both the US wastewater and stormwater systems D grades in its 2021 infrastructure report card released last month. Nature-sensitive urban design principles that link stormwater management goals with urban vegetation projects are key. (1) In this spirit, the infrastructure plan seeks to upgrade and modernize America’s aging and near-failing water, wastewater, and stormwater systems by scaling up existing, successful programs with a $56 billion investment that encourages water efficiency and recycling. (2)
Advancing Equity & Racial Justice
Low-income and people of color are more likely to live in areas highly prone to flooding and other extreme weather events, with fewer means to prepare for or recover from them. Prioritizing infrastructure investments within historically marginalized and excluded communities that are physically and financially most vulnerable, as well as ensuring these communities have equitable access and opportunities to well-paying jobs, can significantly improve their mitigating and adaptive potential and bolster the US economy. The infrastructure plan aims to concentrate 40% of climate and clean infrastructure investments within historically marginalized communities and requests $100 billion for workforce development programs targeted at underserved populations. (2)
Fostering Workforce Development & Job Creation
More than 10 million Americans are officially unemployed – a 6.3% rate that exceeds that of the Great Recession and fuels urgency to put Americans back to work. (3)(4) The Dislocated Workers program proposes $10 billion for skills development and connecting diverse workers to jobs in conservation, helping to improve racial and gender equity while bolstering community resilience and environmental justice. (2) The green infrastructure sphere is a growing space that can produce thousands of jobs and build skill sets that remain relevant in the future.
MEMBERS OF THE EXCHANGE ARE ADVANCING THESE PRIORITIES THROUGH GSI
The Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange seeks to accelerate the affordable and equitable implementation of GSI by supporting peer learning, innovation and collaboration among cities, counties and utilities. We discover and promote approaches to GSI that maximize its potential to improve water quality and mitigate flooding; to adapt to changing rain patterns from climate change; to mitigate heat island effects; to lift up historically marginalized communities; and to fuel a robust GSI workforce and create green jobs. Some members of the Exchange whose work exemplifies our commitment to these priorities are below:
- San Mateo County recently adopted its Sustainable Streets Master Plan to help equitably adapt the roadway network to climate changes and to clean stormwater runoff. It underscores integrating GSI with transportation improvements and other local priorities. With a strong focus on equity, the plan prioritizes projects in environmentally and/or socially disadvantaged communities. more
- The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has launched a variety of programs to cultivate and recruit water professionals that reflect the diverse local community. These include their internships, RISE program, pre-apprenticeship trainings, Fresh Coast Ambassador program, and their provision of NGICP trainings – the gold standard in green infrastructure certification – to local professionals. more
- The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati has just completed the Lick Run Greenway – an impressive mile-long bioengineered stream. Along with an extensive upstream network of “green” and “gray” infrastructure solutions, the Greenway helps remove about 500 million gallons of stormwater a year from the combined sewer system and curbs sewer overflows into local waterways. more
- The City of Detroit recently completed a $8.6 million project to install stormwater management structures to curb flooding in the west side neighborhood of Aviation, which is part of a much larger five-year infrastructure upgrade aimed at replacing aging water and sewer systems. more
- The City of Vancouver launched its Rain City Strategy in 2019 to reimagine how rainwater can be managed more effectively. Among the key drivers is a commitment to respond with urgency to climate change. more
You can view the full list of our member agencies working nationwide to prioritize GSI, equity, and green jobs here.