It’s no secret that we need clean, potable water in our communities. Quality water management is crucial to the foundation of society and remains a top priority for governments across the world.
When people think of the word “infrastructure,” they think of bridges, highways, and power supplies. However, often forgotten are the pipes that run underground and provide us with access to clean water and carry away runoff and waste.
Without these critical infrastructure components, it would be challenging to accomplish the majority of tasks we face today, from doing loads of laundry to having a glass of clean water to drink.
More organizations, especially the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are pushing for green infrastructure to prevent future water crises from occurring. Resources need to be allocated to building more sustainable water systems.
Let’s discuss the emergence of green infrastructure and how it’s being used to lessen the risk of facing a water crisis in the future.
Grey vs. Green Infrastructure
The main difference between grey and green infrastructure is whether the systems work to control our natural environment or use the natural environment to design new, innovative solutions. Today, traditional water systems are considered grey infrastructure, where gutters, pipes, and tunnels move stormwater into treatment plants of large bodies of water.
Because water pollution continues to be a problem in many areas, these systems must be repaired or replaced quite often to ensure non-potable water is transported without gathering harmful contaminants, like E. coli, which is detrimental to both animals and humans.
Outdated grey water systems should be done away with. More sustainable water systems should be integrated into the U.S infrastructure.
Benefits of Green Infrastructure
You may be wondering what makes green infrastructure better than grey infrastructure. There are environmental, social, and economic benefits to transitioning to green infrastructure. Let’s go over some of the benefits of green infrastructure:
- Improved water quality: Reducing sediment and harmful toxins in the water benefits the public’s general well-being.
- Better air quality: More vegetation in an area helps reduce the production of harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) and improves air quality.
- Longer lifespans: Green infrastructure complements existing technologies considered grey infrastructure such as catch basins and drainage pipes. Longer lifespans mean less maintenance and repair work.
- Enhanced biodiversity: Especially in urban areas, residents will become more aware of the environmental impact of their actions and will also work to conserve water wherever possible.
While many other benefits come with transitioning to green infrastructure, the main benefits include upgrading water systems and improving the processes by which stormwater is removed.
Need for Policy Change
Leaders and policymakers in government need to step up and aid in the transition to green infrastructure. The goal should be to provide access to clean water and upgrade the current water management systems we have in place.
For real change to happen, leaders will need to enact policy changes and bring more attention to the issues that contribute to water crises.
In 2019, Congress enacted the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which provides communities with the tools needed to develop sustainable management plans and meet federal standards under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
More programs and initiatives can help bolster the government’s goals set by this act. Hopefully, we’ll see a transition to green infrastructure sooner rather than later.
Moving Toward a Greener Future
As seen during the Flint water crisis that took years to recover from, it’s clear that more resources are needed to address the shortcomings of today’s water management systems.
The ultimate goal is to avoid reaching a point where water becomes inaccessible or unclean for the residents in a given area. Regardless of the location — whether it’s rural or urban — communities around the country need to be reassured that water will still be available to be used for a variety of purposes.