In a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Kansas City, Mo., Councilwoman Jan Marcason discussed the important role of clean water infrastructure investment in creating jobs, protecting the environment and improving the quality of life in cities and towns.
"The availability of clean water is the backbone of a modern society and a livable community, and the nation's water infrastructure systems are significant assets that protect public health, as well as the nation's precious water resources," Marcason said. "To the extent that America's water infrastructure is properly maintained and can adequately meet the needs of our communities, it will help ensure the long-term vitality of our communities.
Investment in water infrastructure and other infrastructure systems also helps create good paying jobs in our communities that are an essential component to a thriving economy, she said.
"Improving the infrastructure systems to protect our public health and promote our local economies requires substantial investment," Marcason added.
According to the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Watershed Needs Survey, the total wastewater and stormwater management needs for the nation were nearly $300 billion as of January 1, 2008. This amount includes $192.2 billion for wastewater treatment plants, pipe repairs, and buying and installing new pipes; $63.6 billion for combined sewer overflow correction; and $42.3 billion for stormwater management.
Given the level of need, NLC called on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program, an essential tool for providing clean water.
Marcason described Kansas City's 25-year, $2.5 billion program - the largest economic development project in the city's history - to improve the city's water quality. Kansas City's innovative and ambitious Overflow Control Plan (OCP) calls for overhauling the sewer system and implementing green infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens and bio-retention facilities to intercept, store and infiltrate stormwater runoff, thereby significantly reducing discharges of untreated sewage that overflows into nearby lakes, streams and rivers.
The Kansas City OCP is projected to create nearly 20,000 good-paying jobs over the life of the project, some in the area of emerging technologies, others in design, engineering and construction.
The plan that Kansas City developed is a cost-effective approach to addressing their aging infrastructure, as the green infrastructure solutions will reduce the cost of implementing the OCP. In the "Target Green" pilot project area of 100 acres, the city will save an estimated $10 million by implementing green solutions instead of the traditional retention tanks that were first proposed to address stormwater runoff.
"Kansas City's commitment to green infrastructure provides for the triple bottom line: creating economic, environmental and social benefits that make the city a better place to live and work," concluded Marcason.
Marcason is a member of the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Steering Committee.