Environmental infrastructure is sometimes invisible to the general public, but it underpins the economy and quality of life in the cities where most people live. Our natural ecosystems provide many benefits for human health and well-being, such as filtering water, providing recreational opportunities, moderating temperatures, maintaining biodiversity, and reducing the impacts of storms. The built environment – including roadways, energy generation, utilities and industrial sites – provides the more visible services that are essential for our economy and society, such as shelter, powering homes and businesses, and transporting people and goods to market, removing and treating or recycling wastes.
Today’s local environmental infrastructure is inadequate to meet the needs of growing populations in an era when environmental change has increased exposure to weather hazards like floods or heat waves; where demand for energy continues to rise; and where new technologies are generating wastes that must be managed. The United States has a backlog of infrastructure projects to the tune of trillions of dollars, including many environmental projects that are essential to our economy and society.
What the Infrastructure Bill Pays For
The recently passed bipartisan $1 trillion legislation is an important step forward in addressing this shortfall. The bill includes key provisions for environmental infrastructure projects that local municipalities can take advantage of, such as:
- $100 billion for climate resilience projects, including measures to protect communities from the impacts of climate change, such as floods and wildfires.
- $20 billion for rural broadband expansion to connect all Americans to high-speed Internet.
- $500 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which helps states and municipalities finance water infrastructure projects, such as upgrading sewage treatment plants and restoring watersheds.
- $250 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which helps states and municipalities finance water infrastructure projects, such as upgrading drinking water systems.
- $16 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a wide range of environmental restoration projects, including repairing damage from Hurricane Harvey and increasing flood protection of the Houston-Galveston Ship Channel.
This bill is only a first step. Local municipalities need to make targeted investments in environmental infrastructure and ensure it can keep pace with the demand for services from growing populations, especially when it comes to energy generation, development of green spaces. waste disposal and improvements to highways that could all have negative impacts on ecosystems and the natural environment.
The Case for Investment Is Only Increasing
With each passing year, the case for investing in environmental infrastructure becomes stronger, and more public officials take notice. Only by building new smart cities can we create a sustainable future that will protect us from climate change’s worst effects while also creating jobs and improving the economy.
But it’s not just to be left for government; we all have our roles to play. One way to make your city more sustainable is by improving waste management. Cities can do this in several ways, such as utilizing technology to monitor waste leakage, implement programs to minimize waste like recycling, composting and repurposing materials.
There are other steps you can take that might look inconsequential, but the cumulative effect is huge. Something as simple as reducing waste will reduce the downstream energy used to manage the wastes, cost savings that can be applied to other important infrastructure projects.
In conclusion, with the Senate voting overwhelmingly to pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If handled properly, the bill will ensure climate resilience by rebuilding the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges among a lot of other important environmental infrastructure projects. But only time will tell whether the politicians will follow through in an effective manner.
About LCA Environmental
Helping municipalities manage the environment is what we do at LCA. We are an award-winning engineering and geoscience firm with expertise in geology, engineering, and remediation. LCA can help you manage business environmental risks in a straightforward, comprehensible way. With 30 years of experience, we provide environmentally friendly services that include property site assessment, management of contamination in roadway projects, building management for asbestos, mold, lead-based paint and indoor air quality, remediation of contaminated soil and water, fueling system design and construction management. We also provide consulting services for waste management, environmental impacts, wetlands delineation, threatened and endangered species surveys, water management, green infrastructure design and more. Contact us to learn how we solve environmental problems with engineering solutions www.lcaenvironmental.com.