What our economy needs right now is a whole lot of green: Green jobs, green projects and green investments that will boost local economies while improving our environment and quality of life.
Congress is looking at ways to jump-start the economy and avoid a recession. Recently, we've been hearing from a lot of governors, mayors, and economists saying that infrastructure investments are among the most powerful and enduring things we can do to grow the economy. Investing in "green" upgrades to our nation's sewage and drinking water systems may not sound sexy (know any Hollywood stars who want to speak up for sewage treatment?) but I'd argue it is the most important thing we can do to create jobs, improve clean water, protect public health and safety, beautify our communities, and revitalize our economyOur nation's pipes and sewers — many built 50 to 100 years ago — are old and quickly deteriorating. The report card released by the American Society of Civil Engineers on the state of the nation's infrastructure gave a grade of D- to sewers and water treatment plants -- very near failing. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that we could soon see sewage pollution levels that we haven't seen since the 1970s. This means more waterborne illnesses, more beach closures and fewer opportunities for fishing and boating.
Investments to fix these outdated structures and systems would pump money into the economy and create tens of thousands of jobs -- for every billion dollars invested in water infrastructure construction, 47,000 jobs are created. And it's important to invest in environmentally-friendly public works projects wherever possible. Green approaches to managing water and sewage not only save us money, it brings all kinds of other benefits to people, rivers and wildlife.
Philadelphia, Chicago, Portland, New York, Washington DC, Seattle, and Los Angeles are already leaders when it comes to green projects. These cities are embracing green roofs, rain gardens, urban tree planting, and other ways to reduce storm-water runoff. Instead of funneling stormwater into a pipe, it can be used to cool buildings and irrigate landscapes, or simply allowed to seep into the ground to replenish streams and groundwater. If every city embraced these ideas, think of how many "green collar" jobs we could create.
Another great way to create green jobs is to boost funding for retrofits of old toilets, plumbing fixtures and water-using appliances to more efficient models. Much of the country is struggling with drought and impacts to their water supplies from climate change, so investing in water efficiency is a smart solution. Over a decade ago, New York City created jobs and dropped water consumption by 26 percent by installing more than a million low-flow toilets.
The bottom line is that green investments pay off. They can make our rivers cleaner, create green collar jobs, and make our communities better places to live. Our message to Congress: Want to jump-start the economy? Go green.
Image credit::Flickr. Victoria BC Marriott Green Roof