United States EPA’s Strategic Agenda to Protect Waters and Build More Livable Communities Through Green Infrastructure
Note to Reader:
The purpose of the article below is to connect the dots between recent developments in the United States and initiatives that are underway in British Columbia. This results in a consolidated reference for a number of articles recently posted on Water Bucket.
Encourage and Support
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched an initiative to promote the use of “green infrastructure” by cities and towns, in an effort to reduce stormwater and rainwater runoff.
On April 29, 2011 Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe announced the release of the EPA’s new Strategic Agenda to Protect Waters and Build More Livable Communities through Green Infrastructure. This outlines the activities that the Agency will undertake to help communities implement green infrastructure approaches.
EPA’s strategy focuses on clarifying how green infrastructure can and should be used within the regulatory and enforcement contexts, outreach and information exchange, financing, and tool development and capacity building.
Concurrent with the release of the Strategic Agenda, EPA’s Office of Water and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance issued a joint memorandum encouraging communities to use green infrastructure to meet Clean Water Act Requirements. The Memorandum states that the EPA “strongly encourages and supports the use of green infrastructure approaches to manage wet weather through infiltration, evapotranspirtation and rainwater harvesting.”
To Learn More:
To download the news release, click here.
Local Government Partners
Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe also announced EPA’s green infrastructure community partnership effort by introducing the first 10 communities that will work with the Agency on green infrastructure implementation issues.
“Many local governments, like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, are already adopting green infrastructure programs. But there is no doubt that getting the unambiguous backing of the most influential federal clean water agency will help bring green infrastructure to more states and more communities,” observes David Beckman in a column posted on the Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog.
To Learn More:
To download the article by David Beckman, click on EPA Steps Up Its Support for Green Infrastructure as Weapon Against Polluted Stormwater.
Urban Water Sustainability Leadership
In December 2010, the Clean Water America Alliance brought together green infrastructure leaders from around the United States at a conference in Philadelphia on urban water sustainability leadership. They shared innovations, strategies, and best practices for making green infrastructure the centrepiece of the urban water world.
Launched in 2008, the Clean Water America Alliance is exploring the complex issue of water sustainability; and is advancing holistic, watershed-based approaches to water quality and quantity challenges.
A number of themes emerged during the conference, including: Green infrastructure has multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits, but it must work within the greater quilt of water management that includes traditional gray infrastructure.
To Learn More:
Formed in 2010, the Rainwater-in-Context Initiative is a sub-committee of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). In the United States, the CNU is the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.
“A key goal of the Rainwater-in-Context Initiative is to help get the United States on the correct path for sustainable rainwater/stormwater management practices,” states Colorado-based Paul Crabtree, a driving force behind the Rainwater-in-Context Initiative.
“We are working to better match rainwater/stormwater management to the development context through the integration of rainwater into all planning scales from the region to the building, and utilizing a transect-based system for regulating the metrics and forms of rainwater practices.”
To Learn More:
The View from British Columbia
“The Strategic Agenda document just released by the United States EPA once again illustrates a convergence of understanding. Viewed from our vantage point, the EPA initiative builds on what was accomplished six months ago by the Urban Water Sustainability Leadership conference in Philadelphia. It also aligns with the Rainwater-in-Context Intiative,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. “On both sides of the 49th parallel, practitioners are seeing the inter-connectedness of green infrastructure and water sustainability, and the implications for watershed health.”
“From a British Columbia perspective, it is great to see the EPA brand their Strategic Agenda as ‘protect waters and build more livable communities’. We have been using almost identical branding since 2008 when the Province released Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Our mantra is: create liveable communities and protect stream health. If we design with nature, the latter will be an outcome of the former.”
Green Infrastructure = Water Sustainability
“In British Columbia, it was 2006 when the Green Infrastructure Partnership took the initiative to define water sustainability as an outcome of green infrastructure policies and practices. The catalyst was our need for a vocabulary that resonated both on the wet Coast and in the dry Interior of British Columbia,” continues Kim Stephens.
“The breakthrough in our thinking came when we realized the obvious: land development practices are basically the same in the two settings, but target different water sustainability outcomes. On the coast, the primary goal when employing green infrastructure is reduction of drainage runoff to protect aquatic habitat. In the interior, the emphasis is on reducing water use to extend water supplies,” adds Ray Fung, Chair of the British Columbia Green Infrastructure Partnership.
“A good way to visualize this inter-connectedness is that an absorbent topsoil layer is the interface between rainwater management and drought management. Soil depth creates a sponge…. which can limit runoff during wet-weather periods; and reduce water need during dry-weather periods.”
“Currently, the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Green Infrastructure Partnership are collaborating to create a Topsoil Bylaws Primer. This will build on the existing Topsoil Primer Set and provide a comprehensive and accessible resource for local governments. It will support rainwater management, water conservation, and aquifer recharge. The Topsoil Bylaws Primer will be available at the end of 2011.”
To Learn More:
Click on “Topsoil Primer Set” connects the dots between rainwater management and drought management — The ‘Law & Policy’ and ‘Technical’ primers are built on the experience the Green Infrastructure Partnership has gained, since 2004, in promoting green infrastructure approaches to development in BC.
Posted May 2011