water protection

Around the Water Cooler: Green Infrastructure Research All-STARs

This post originally appeared on EPA’s Healthy Waters for the Mid-Atlantic Region blog.

by Ken Hendrickson and Jennie Saxe

green infrastructure

An example of green infrastructure to help in managing urban stormwater.

A few weeks ago, Major League Baseball (MLB) held its annualAll-Star Game. This is a chance for the best players from across MLB to work together and showcase their talents. EPA recently had a chance to host an “all-star” event of its own. On July 24,EPA’s Mid-Atlantic RegionandEPA’s Office of Research and Development hosted akick-off meetingof researchers who receivedScience to Achieve Results(STAR) grants. Since this was a kick-off meeting, it felt like less like a mid-season break, and more like spring training.

Like a baseball team focused on winning the pennant, these researchers are all focused on one goal:understanding the performance and effectiveness of green infrastructure in an urban setting. Five colleges and universities received a total of nearly $5 million from EPA to focus research on green infrastructure in Philadelphia. These research projects,announced on a snowy day this past January, will support the groundbreaking Green City, Clean Waters Partnership agreement between EPA and the City of Philadelphia.

Why would the research teams meet when the research hasn’t yet begun? This type of meeting provides researchers with a full picture of all of the research that is planned, and allows researchers to identify opportunities for collaboration. In this way, the individual teams can better understand where, how, and what their peers will be investigating. Proposals were developed several months ago, and it’s important to discuss the plans, processes, and research sites that have been refined since the projects were funded.

While the research may be conducted by these “academic all-stars,” it is much more than an academic exercise: the research is happening on the ground in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, and – by making it easier and cheaper to protect water quality through greening communities – the benefits will go to the residents of the city. In addition to the more than 30 researchers who attended to present their plans, dozens more people learned about the research plans by attending via webinar – maybe they will be inspired to pursue green infrastructure projects in their communities.

In research, as in baseball, with hard work comes important results. We’re certain that when we check back with these researchers in a few years, they will have many more insights to share.

About the authors: Ken Hendrickson and Jennie Saxe work in the Water Protection Division of EPA’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Wildfires Impact Water Resources in Colorado

By Nancy Stoner

It has been a hot and dry summer across most of the U.S. and one of the results has been an unusual number of forest fires. While controlled burns for fire suppression are a good thing, forest fires can be devastating to communities, causing loss of life, property damage, destruction of habitat, and severe water quality impacts.

I had the opportunity to visit a fire-ravaged area near Colorado Springs last week along with representatives of the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the Colorado Springs Utility, and my EPA colleagues from our regional office in Denver. We were observing the 18,000 acres affected by the Waldo Fire earlier this summer and the work of the burn area emergency response team led by the Forest Service to stabilize the most highly burned areas on steep slopes so that mud slides would not cause further loss of life, blockage of roadways, and loss of waterways.

The drinking water utility had already completely lost use of one of its reservoirs due to the extreme sedimentation caused by mud pouring off the charred landscape after even modest storms. While long-term restoration of the forest and all of its water protection benefits will take many years, the immediate business was mulching and strawing areas completely devoid of green vegetation. The forest service team of experts was doing this by dropping mulch and straw from the sky with helicopters.

EPA is contributing to this effort and will be contributing to additional watershed restoration efforts through its Clean Water Act 319 nonpoint source funding through the State of Colorado. Protection of surface water sources like this, which provides tap water for about 500,000 residents of Colorado, is one of the main uses of the 319 funding.

This is a great cooperative effort of the federal, state, and local governments working together to protect public health and safety. Hats off to the whole team for their fast and efficient work to address this emergency. EPA is proud to be a part of this effort.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.