Natural Infrastructure for Safe and Clean Water

dreamstime_m_14679278The World Resources Institute recently released an exciting and very useful report on Natural Infrastructure: Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States.

Source water protection (SWP) is the Safe Drinking Water Act’s analogue to watershed protection and is part of a “multi-barrier” approach to cost-effectively protecting sources of potable water, often enhancing other environmental and social values in the process.

Full disclosure: I was privileged to co-author the “Forward” to the report with Andrew Steer, WRI’s president. Here is an excerpt.

Harnessing the water-related services provided by forests, wetlands, floodplains, and working lands-known as ‘natural infrastructure’-has a major role to play in combating the water crisis, especially in a period of fiscal austerity. Investing in integrated water management strategies that combine engineered solutions with natural infrastructure can reduce costs, enhance services, and provide a suite of co-benefits for communities and the environment. This integrated approach, beginning with the protection of drinking water at its source, is the future of water management.

And there is more:

This guide, the most comprehensive of its kind, threads together the experience and insights of over 50 authors from the front lines of source water protection efforts. It is a call to action for water utility staff and land managers alike to bring natural infrastructure into focus in their institutions, with this guide as a foundation from which businesses and municipalities can innovate in the face of a growing water crisis.

Consider this post as a teaser.  I plan on reviewing this report, at length, in a future issue of The Environmental Forum which is published by the Environmental Law Institute.

The report does an excellent job of outlining the business case, the scientific underpinnings, and the means of identifying and seizing upon the opportunities to work with utilties, stakeholders, political leaders, and conservation organization to design, finance, and implement measures at the landscape scale which will yield both economic and environmental benefits. Whether it is deferring or avoiding costly investments in tradtional gray infrastructure, or reducing ongoing treatment costs, all while protecting habitat, maintaining natural hydrology, and sequestering carbon in the process, natural infrastructure covers all the bases.