September 29, 2020
In many communities, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are partnering with park agencies to build green infrastructure in parks to meet their regulatory requirements. Cities, their wastewater and stormwater utilities, and their flood control districts are required to limit stormwater volume and pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Water utilities can meet their regulatory requirements, and avoid significant financial penalties, by investing in green infrastructure, gray infrastructure, or some combination of both.
Water utilities may prefer investing in green over gray infrastructure. It is often less expensive and offers additional quality of life, environmental, and health benefits, which make it easier for utilities to “sell” necessary ratepayer increases.
In order to partner with a water utility on green infrastructure, it is essential to find projects that meet their regulatory requirements and the community’s park and greenspace needs. Other partners that can be critical to building a successful program include school districts, park agencies, departments of the environment, nonprofit land trusts, and park conservancies.
Many cities and wastewater utilities operate under an EPA consent decree that establishes clean water milestones to be reached over 20 years in order to avoid financial penalties. Some utilities have negotiated green infrastructure investments in their milestones.
Examples of water utilities partnering on park and green infrastructure investments is critical to convincing water utilities it is not only a viable, but an advantageous approach.