When WRI's recent global office renovation earned LEED Silver certification, it joined more than 38,000 LEED projects that are reducing carbon emissions and improving building efficiency worldwide. As standards for greener construction are incorporated into national and local building codes, they are raising the bar for the future.
This Infrastructure Week, it's time to look beyond building new pipes and pumps. Growing, restoring and preserving America's "natural infrastructure" like forests can help secure clean water supplies.
Making our infrastructure cleaner and more sustainable could add as little as 5 percent to upfront costs, which could be fully offset by lower operating costs. WRI Board member and former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón reveals four ways to unlock capital for low-carbon infrastructure.
Natural infrastructure, strategically managed natural and open spaces like forests or wetlands, can direct more clean water to cities by controlling water flows, preventing sediment buildup and absorbing pollutants before they flow into waterways.
Decision-makers oftentimes treat the services that ecosystems provide—like water filtration or flood protection—as a free benefit. A new issue brief can help them account for nature's full worth.
Global infrastructure challenges present opportunities to improve our cities. To ensure that these investments result in communities that are productive, livable and sustainable, we must change how we build, manage, and use our cities.
Securing clean water is becoming increasingly difficult in the United States. Infrastructure like dams and treatment plants are aging, water demand is increasing, and more frequent extreme weather events like wildfires and flooding are driving up the cost of water management.
It’s a complex problem, but one of the potential solutions is decidedly low-tech: Invest in nature.
Water is a scarce resource in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, where most rainfall is limited to the monsoon season from June through September. The Government of India has long promoted a Participatory Watershed Development (PWD) approach to deal with this scarcity.
This post was co-written with James Mulligan, Executive Director at Green Community Ventures.
Natural ecosystems provide essential services for our communities. Forests and wetlands, for example, filter the water we drink, protect neighborhoods from floods and droughts, and shade aquatic habitat for fish populations.
While nature provides this “green infrastructure,” water utilities and other decision-makers often attempt to replicate these services with concrete-and-steel “gray infrastructure”—usually at a much greater cost. Particularly where the equivalent natural ecosystems are degraded, we build filtration plants to clean water, reservoirs to regulate water flow, and mechanical chillers to protect fish from increasing stream temperatures. And even though healthy ecosystems can reduce the operational costs of these structures, investing in restoring or enhancing various types of green infrastructure is rarely pursued—either as a substitute for or complement to gray infrastructure.
Despite America’s history of reliance on gray infrastructure, now is a critical time to tip the scales in favor of a green infrastructure approach to water-resource management. Investing in the conservation and improved management of natural ecosystems to secure and protect water systems can keep costs down and create jobs. Green infrastructure can also provide a suite of co-benefits for the air we breathe, the places we play, the wildlife we share our landscapes with, and the climate we live in.