Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation on July 8 designed to help address the nation’s water quality challenges by encouraging the research, development and promotion of new technologies and designs that use natural processes to combat polluted stormwater runoff. The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2010 (S. 3561) would establish up to five regional centers of excellence that would spearhead the research and development of new stormwater management techniques, which use soil and plant life to filter storm water polluted by sediments and chemicals on the surface before it reaches nearby bodies of water. The legislation would also establish a green infrastructure program within the EPA’s Office of Water to coordinate and promote the use of new stormwater techniques. EPA’s regional offices would complete similar efforts. The legislation introduced by the senators, who are both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, further authorizes technical assistance and project grants to local wastewater utilities for green infrastructure projects that take advantage of these alternative techniques to stormwater management. The legislation does not alter the Clean Water Act’s regulatory requirements, but rather seeks to expand the options for communities to achieve clean water standards.
The legislation defines ‘‘green infrastructure’’ to mean stormwater management techniques that preserve, restore, enhance, or mimic natural hydrology, such as green roofs, porous pavements and ground cover, or vegetated channels and detention areas that reduce the burden of storm water on wastewater infrastructure and the environment. Udall and Whitehouse’s legislation is supported by a wide variety of organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; Natural Resources Defense Council; American Rivers; American Public Works Association; Water Environment Federation; Center for Neighborhood Technology; Clean Water Action; and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), and Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio).