Today people and organizations across the country, including NRDC, are gathering together to express their support for better federal clean water protections.
This summer’s installment of NRDC’s annual beach report Testing the Waters showed once again that the waters where we swim and play are sorely in need of improved safeguards. In 2012, there were more than 20,000 beach closing and advisory days at U.S. beaches due to unsafe bacteria levels in the water. The largest known source of that pollution was stormwater runoff – the dirty water that rolls off hard surfaces like roads and parking lots and into nearby water bodies every time it rains.
This pollution affects more than just beaches. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stormwater runoff has led to violations of water quality standards in at least 30,000 miles of rivers and 1.4 million acres of lakes nationwide. Chances are, if you live in an urban or suburban area, at least one of the water bodies in your neighborhood is also likely impaired by stormwater runoff. (In my case, the stream flowing through my local dog park gets polluted by bacteria-laden runoff after rainstorms.)
NRDC recently petitioned the EPA to address stormwater runoff from certain types of existing developed sites in three regions of the country. But the EPA has also promised to develop updated nationwide requirements for newly developed and redeveloped sites to reduce the amount of polluted runoff they generate. About 800,000 acres of land in the U.S. are developed every year; we need new standards to protect our local waters from the impacts of all that development.
By modernizing the methods we use to manage stormwater, these new standards would also make our communities more beautiful and vibrant. That’s because the best way to reduce runoff pollution is by using green infrastructure – a cost-effective, multi-benefit set of strategies like green roofs and rain gardens that soak up water and prevent rainfall from becoming runoff in the first place.
Here’s how we’ve traditionally built our urban areas, with lots of concrete and other impervious, runoff-generating surfaces:
Now, here’s how that same block would look with widespread use of green infrastructure:
Wouldn’t you rather live in a neighborhood that looked more like the second photo? (Those pictures are courtesy of the Philadelphia Water Department, illustrating how different – and vibrant – the city will look after implementation of PWD’s “Green City, Clean Waters” plan.)
The problem is that the EPA keeps delaying this new set of stormwater standards. The agency first promised to propose new regulations back in 2009, but four years later, it’s just missed its proposal deadline for the sixth time. No professor in the world would give a student six extensions on an assignment – and if you or I missed a deadline at work six times in a row, we’d probably get fired. So why should it be acceptable for the EPA? Every day the agency delays this rulemaking is another day that polluted runoff continues fouling our rivers, streams, lakes, and beaches.
That’s where you come in. Please join us today in contacting your Members of Congress to tell them that you’re concerned about this long string of EPA delays and missed deadlines. Our partner organization American Rivers developed some nifty tools that allow you to send a letter or a tweet to your House and Senate representatives. And if you want to contact EPA directly, this NRDC action page will allow you to do so easily. The more of us that show support for clean water, the more pressure we’ll put on EPA to move ahead with this critical effort.