AUSTIN – A nature-based street re-design in San Marcos reduced pollution to the San Marcos River by 80%, according to a new national report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. Environment Texas urged the Texas Legislature and Congress to significantly increase investment in such nature-based infrastructure projects to help protect waterways from pollution and flooding.
“From the San Marcos River here in Texas to the far off Chesapeake Bay, it’s clear that investing in water infrastructure works,” said Anna Farrell-Sherman, Clean Water Associate with Environment Texas. “Texans are tired of news of flooding, drought, and toxic algae blooms. But without an investment in our water infrastructure, we can only expect more of these stories. We are calling on our nation to apply the right resources now so we can fix these problems.”
The new study, which comes out as Congress negotiates water infrastructure funding for the coming fiscal year as part of the federal budget, offers a path to investing in infrastructure to achieve cleaner water. The report calls for Congress to support states’ efforts to bring our nation’s water quality up to standards. This clean water funding should prioritize nature-based infrastructure, a cost effective and innovative way to trap and treat dirty water while providing beautiful outdoor spaces and wildlife habitat.
Texas has an opportunity to do so now, which the group will discuss in a webinar at 4pm this afternoon. The recommendation is to create a “sponsored project program” like the one used in Iowa, to invest in nature-based infrastructure through our Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Iowa’s program has financed over 100 nature-based projects across the state at zero additional cost to local communities. Environment Texas, a sister organization of the center who released the report, is working this coming legislative session to create a similar program here in Texas. For more information, tune into our webinar at 4pm today.
The report, entitled A Path to Cleaner Water, shows how investing in water infrastructure brings cleaner water to communities across America through case studies of successful and innovative projects in each of the ten U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions. Despite the geographical differences between regions and states, it’s clear how clean water investments can clean and protect America’s waterways.
The report highlighted the City of San Marco for their innovative work using native plants and nature-based street construction on CM Allen Parkway to protect water quality in the San Marcos River. The project removes over 80% of the heavy metals, toxic chemicals, E. coli and other pollutants that used to enter the river each year, significantly reducing the devastating effect water pollution has on river ecosystems and preventing toxic algae blooms that put the community’s health at risk.
“It’s fantastic to see the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers benefiting from investment. We should be able to say the same for every waterway in Texas, no matter its location or size,” Farrell-Sherman noted. “Texans know our waterways are special and are willing to invest to protect them.”
To upgrade these systems and protect clean water, Congress will have to make a substantial investment, according to the report. They have until December 11 to negotiate a compromise on this and other issues in the federal budget. Elected officials are currently negotiating water infrastructure provisions, including the $11 billion House spending bill aimed at solving this problem.
“Not only is investing in clean water a good idea for our waterways, environment, and our communities, it also has bipartisan support.” Farrell-Sherman said. “We saw proof of this earlier this year when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced draft legislation with bipartisan support to boost water infrastructure spending. The support of clean water can bring Congress together, and show unity in a time of great division. We are hoping Texas’s legislature will follow suit and support a sponsored project program to protect our communities here in Texas.”
Environment Texas Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.