The Clean Water State Revolving Fund: Green Infrastructure
Innovative Projects and State Activities
June 2012
                                                Clean Water
                                                State Revolving Fund
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
of 2009 (ARRA) opened the floodgates to
expanded project opportunities for soft path,
green infrastructure projects in both rural and
urban environments across the country. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
defines green infrastructure as approaches and
technologies that maintain and restore natural
hydrology by infiltrating, evapotranspiring,
capturing, and using stormwater. Since 1988,
funds have been appropriated annually through
the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean
Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program
to all 50 states and Puerto Rico for the purpose
of facilitating a wide variety of water quality
projects, including nonpoint source, watershed
protection and restoration, estuary
management, as well as traditional municipal
wastewater treatment projects.  Since the
program's inception, over $90 billion dollars in
financial assistance for eligible water quality
projects has been provided.

Congress passed ARRA on February 17, 2009,
and allocated $4 billion to the CWSRF. In the
past, the majority of CWSRF funding has been
directed to traditional municipal wastewater
infrastructure projects that address point
source pollution. However, the inclusion of the
Green Project Reserve (GPR) under ARRA
helped instigate a paradigm shift in water
quality project priorities for many state CWSRF
programs. Twenty percent of ARRA CWSRF
funds were directed to go towards the GPR,
which included four categories: energy
efficiency, water efficiency and conservation,
environmentally innovative projects, and green

As a result of the ARRA GPR, an unprecedented
amount of nonpoint source, green
infrastructure projects were funded by CWSRF
programs across the United States to the tune
of $209 million, representing 18 percent of the
$1.13 billion set aside expressly for GPR
projects.  State CWSRF programs funded 259
green infrastructure project components.  This
demonstrates the growing importance of the
CWSRF in supporting and encouraging more of
these types of projects, which include
technologies and practices that use natural or
engineered  systems designed to mimic natural
hydrologic processes to infiltrate,
evapotranspire, and reuse stormwater to
improve water  quality. Examples of such
practices include pervious pavement, rain
gardens, bioretention applications, constructed
wetlands and riparian restoration projects.

The most effective best management practices
for managing stormwater vary from region to
region and state to state, so there is no "one
size fits all"  approach. The critical and  often
most challenging aspect of bringing these types
of projects to fruition is the importance of
public education, outreach, and developing
cooperative partnerships with various  public,
private, state and federal entities, and
stakeholders to ensure success in terms of

implementation and viability for years to come.
The following CWSRF ARRA projects effectively
illustrate the importance of partnership building
among stakeholders and demonstrate how
different green infrastructure technologies and
practices can be applied in different settings.

The City of Lenexa received $1.1 million in
CWSRF ARRA funds for the Central Green
Streamway Project, which is part of the city's
Vision 2020 planning strategy that emphasizes
sustainable, livable communities through sound
management of wastewater and stormwater
infrastructure. The city introduced its Rain to
Recreation program in the summer of 2000, and
it has been nationally recognized for its
innovative approach to stormwater
management, natural resource conservation,
and stakeholder outreach and involvement in
natural resource management. The success of
this program relies heavily upon the support of
community members, local businesses, and
nonprofit groups working together to enhance
the quality of both natural and built
environments. Lenexa's visioning strategy
specifically identifies the need for innovative
stormwater management planning,
maintenance programs, efficient methods of
irrigation,  watershed protection, and continuing
environmental education for community

The Central Green Streamway Project echoes
this vision and implements green stormwater
management with a bioengineered step pool
Streamway, a constructed wetland, native
vegetation plantings, and a water  reuse
1 City of Lenexa (1997). Lenexa Vision 2020. Available at
irrigation system within the City Center North
facility. The Streamway will safely convey
stormwater from the City Center development
through the City Center North development
while creating a usable public gathering space,
enhancing infiltration,  and allowing for
increased bioremediation of stormwater run-
off. The constructed wetland will help mitigate
the impacts of stormwater in the Parkhurst
neighborhood, the downstream Streamway,
and in Shawnee Mission Lake. Other
components of the project include constructing
trails adjacent to the Streamway and  planting
native vegetation. The Central Green
Streamway will help Lenexa fulfill  its Vision
2020 goals of providing common open space for
the community and beautifying the
neighborhood while improving water quality.

The Jordan River courses over 58 miles across
the Salt Lake Valley. Beginning at Utah Lake
atop Mount Timpanagos, it travels through Salt
Lake City and ultimately drains into the Great
Salt Lake. The river segments winding through
the metropolitan area  have become highly
channelized over the years within this urban
environment. Increased development adjacent
to the river has resulted in significant erosion
and sedimentation that has contributed to the
degradation of water quality, wildlife habitat,
and bank stability. As a result, the Jordan River
has been declared an impaired water body for
levels of dissolved oxygen and total suspended
solids under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water

As part of the Salt Lake City Open  Space
Program, the Jordan River Bank Stabilization
and Restoration Project is a partnership effort

between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.
This project received $484,200 in CWSRF ARRA
funds from the Utah State Water Quality Board
to restore four sites along the urban corridors
of the Jordan River. The soil bank stabilization
will be accomplished through implementing
stone toe protection, grading back the river
bank to a gradual 3:1 slope, and planting native
vegetation. It is expected that this project will
effectively eliminate approximately 950 cubic
yards of sedimentation from the Jordan River
annually and over time will help re-establish
wildlife habitat, promote cooler river
temperatures by providing ample stream
shading, and encourage robust ecosystem
function and water quality improvement by
reducing levels of total suspended  solids and
increasing dissolved oxygen to healthy levels
conducive to aquatic systems.2

The City of Spokane received $599,000 in ARRA
funds from the Washington State Department
of Ecology's Water  Pollution Control Revolving
Fund to construct a demonstration project of
street-side rain gardens to control  pollution
from stormwater runoff. The Spokane  Urban
Runoff Greenway Ecosystem, or SURGE, will
examine the suitability of planning, designing,
and retrofitting the existing urban landscape of
curb and gutter systems using low-impact and
green infrastructure practices to mimic the
natural hydrologic process by capturing,
treating, and infiltrating stormwater runoff.  As
part of the city's extensive Sustainability
Strategic Plan, the ARRA funds were used to
 Salt Lake City Government (2009). SLCGreen - Open
Space Lands Program. Available at River
construct the West Broadway SURGE project,
which demonstrates Spokane's ongoing
commitment to adopting green practices that
support a more sustainable approach towards
wastewater treatment.

    The Broadway Avenue SURGE project
    is a low-cost solution to capture,
    treat, and infiltrate runoff as close to
    where it falls as possible," says Mayor
    Mary Verner.  "The storm gardens will
    enhance the beauty of Broadway
    Avenue and improve water quality by
    reducing the contaminants going to
    the Spokane River.

The project consists of a network of rain
gardens constructed between the curbs and
sidewalks to intercept stormwater runoff.  Rain
gardens are an excellent example of green
infrastructure design  particularly suited for the
inland  Northwest, as they are capable of
properly treating stormwater runoff flows from
both rain and snow events. Street-side
depressions, planted with native vegetation, are
designed to capture runoff from impervious
areas like roofs, streets, and parking lots,
allowing it to naturally be absorbed into the

In all, 37 rain gardens were constructed along
with five drainage structures  and over 1,200
square yards of pervious sidewalk. Each rain
garden is comprised of a layering of structural
soil, which includes a  mix of gravel, top soil, and
moisture retaining gel to support the growth of
tree roots; a layer of treatment soil consisting of
topsoil, sand, and organic matter to provide
biological treatment to stormwater; and a layer
of composted mulch at the surface to regulate
moisture, minimize weed growth, and further
enhance biological treatment cleansing.

The environmental, economic, and social
benefits associated with the SURGE project are
broad, ranging from improving the operation of
Spokane's combined sewer system, providing a
low-cost alternative to treating and managing
stormwater runoff, and increasing urban green
space that provides an enhanced aesthetic
environment through the reduction of paved

The main purpose of this project is to improve
water quality. By removing nitrogen and
phosphorus loads from stormwater runoff, the
water quality of Spokane's primary source of
drinking water, its sole-source aquifer located
directly beneath the city of Spokane, and the
Spokane River, which runs through the heart of
Spokane, is protected.

Green infrastructure can play an important role
in municipal water quality management. Studies
have shown that the green infrastructure
applications previously mentioned not only
result in substantial savings in both construction
and life cycle costs as compared to conventional
infrastructure, but  can also provide more
indirect economic and social benefits. The
Center for Neighborhood Technology
developed an online economic modeling tool
called the Green Values® Calculator 3which
demonstrates that, on average, green
infrastructure projects are often 30 percent less
expensive to construct with 25 percent less
associated life cycle costs than their
conventional counterparts. Furthermore, soft
path solutions such as permeable pavement,
constructed wetlands and bioretention
applications have efficacy ratings for removing
nitrogen, total suspended solids, and reducing
peak flows and runoff volumes between 40 and
75 percent. 4

There are social benefits associated with the
use of green infrastructure technologies as well
that can be qualitatively measured for how
effectively they enhance the quality of life for
communities.  These projects offer what
conventional infrastructure cannot: natural
beauty and public open spaces, habitat and
enriched ecosystems for plants, animals and
people, improved air quality, and reduced heat
island effect. All of these benefits have a
resounding, positive impact on the people and
properties surrounding them.

There are a multitude of factors contributing to
the water pollution problems associated with
storm events.  As urbanization continues,
landscapes are becoming increasingly
impervious. The health and integrity of surface
waterbodies is significantly impacted by
pollutant loads in stormwater runoff from
surfaces that do not allow for onsite infiltration.
Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, as well
sedimentation and other contaminants
generated from combined sewer overflows and
sanitary sewer overflows, represent real health
concerns for both humans and the ecosystem

In addition, groundwater resources are
deprived of recharge, which reduces the ability
of aquifers to maintain adequate base flow
rates to urban lakes and streams and impairs
the viability of drinking water sources.  The
conventional stormwater systems currently in
 Available at
 Jaffe et al (2009). The Illinois Green Infrastructure Study:
A Report to The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
on the Criteria in Section 15 of Public Act 96-0026, The
Illinois Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009.

place in many municipalities, consisting of
curbs, gutters, drains, and storm sewers, are
often insufficient to handle current and
anticipated stormwater management needs.  It
is also important to factor in the effects of
climate change on wastewater and stormwater
infrastructure, which are already beginning to
be felt. Rising sea levels and storm surges, more
intense rain and snow events, increased
incidents of flooding, devastating wildfires,
changes in the availability of drinking water,
and warming water temperatures that alter the
aquatic ecosystem  and food web will all put a
strain on existing water infrastructure.5

The environmental, economic, and social
benefits of undertaking more green
infrastructure projects have been identified, but
without increasing the level of partnerships
among funding agencies, municipalities, public
utilities, and stakeholder groups, many
opportunities to devise creative mechanisms for
addressing the growing need for sustainable
and effective stormwater infrastructure and
management will be lost. Bringing political
subdivisions and utilities together with
community stakeholders and nonprofit groups
and organizations dedicated to the protection
of water quality through stormwater initiatives,
education and outreach activities can prime
local and state leaders to pursue more projects
that address the nonpoint source pollution
issues derived from stormwater pollution.
Many communities across the United States
have undertaken efforts to encourage green
infrastructure and soft path solutions to
pollution abatement efforts.
 U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the
Subcommittee on Global Change Research (2008).
Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-
Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources.
In Idaho, a nonprofit organization called
Partners for Clean Water is comprised of six
agencies all working in partnership: the Idaho
Transportation Department, Garden City,
Drainage District Number Three, Boise State
University, Boise Public Works, and the Ada
County Highway District. These groups have
collectively spearheaded efforts to reduce
stormwater pollution through a targeted
marketing campaign, community events, and
public service announcements.

In California, the California State Water Board
worked  closely with the Santa Monica
Baykeepers and the Santa Monica Restoration
Foundation to install several large, low-impact
development rain gardens adjacent to a
blighted area along Ballona Creek. These rain
gardens were designed to treat stormwater
runoff from 15 acres of commercial, industrial,
and residentially zoned areas of Culver City,
California. The Ballona Creek project was a
success  largely due to the commitment and
responsiveness of nonprofit organizations like
these, working in tandem with state and  federal
financing agencies.

In more rural settings, water quality issues exist
where it is difficult to locate a responsible party
with the financial, technical and managerial
means to undertake debt obligations for  the
purpose of implementing green infrastructure
projects. For those water quality issues that are
not closely associated with agricultural
activities, there may be other options available,
such as conservation easements for projects
that address watershed protection by
implementing erosion controls through
streambank stabilization and riparian
restoration projects.  A study conducted  by the
American Water Works Association Research
Foundation has shown that land ownership can

offer the most effective long-term protection
against nonpoint source pollution.6
Conservation easements can protect areas from
land use conversion, thereby limiting the
amount of development and increased
impervious areas that further contribute to
stormwater pollutant loads in surface and
ground waters. Working through land trusts
can be an effective means of addressing water
quality impairments in wild land environments
resulting from forest fires, logging, road
building, and  mining activities.

Building partnerships with The Trust for Public
Land and local land trust organizations provides
broader opportunities for stakeholders to
implement best management practices and
protect water at its source.  Through the
vehicle of land acquisition, green infrastructure
initiatives can be used as an economical and
sustainable method of addressing more
challenging nonpoint source pollution issues
that also support smart growth initiatives aimed
at preserving open space and natural resources.

Conservation easements can be an effective
tool in both rural and urban environments. For
instance, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
(MMSD) began examining how green
infrastructure could complement their
conventional  gray infrastructure investments.
As a result, they created an innovative program
called Greenseams targeted at  reducing flood
risks and pollution from stormwater runoff.  In
partnership with The Conservation Fund, a
nonprofit organization that has successfully
preserved 6 million acres of land, Greenseams
began to acquire land containing hydric soils
and water-absorbing vegetation through
permanent conservation easements to
ultimately create a successful program for
green infrastructure flood management.7

Through the forging of partnerships between
MMSD, Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources, and various planning commissions,
as well as community members and property
owners, over 2,000 acres of land  have been
preserved in the vicinity of Milwaukee since the
program's inception in 2001. The Greenseams
program has proven cost-effective for the
Milwaukee utility and has provided both
qualitative and quantitative benefits to the
community by creating open spaces and wildlife
habitat, improving the quality of life for nearby
residents, and protecting water quality within
the watershed.

In states like Colorado, water quality has been
significantly impaired by catastrophic wildfires
such as the Hayman Fire, which destroyed
140,000 acres in the summer of 2002 and
damaged some of the state's major water
supply reservoirs. Denver Water partnered
with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte to
undertake rehabilitative efforts to restore a
devastated watershed and reduce sediment
loading of waterways and water storage
reservoirs due to post-fire flooding. These
efforts to restore the Upper South Platte
watershed, which drains into the Denver Metro
area, have been successful in protecting water
supplies and water quality for millions of
 The Trust for Public Land and the American Water Works
Association (2004). Protecting the Source Land
Conservation and the Future of America's Drinking Water.
 Hrobar, J. (2009).  Innovative Program Connects
Wastewater Utilities and Nature. WaterWorldVolume 4,
Issue 4. Available at

Though these organizations largely obtain funds
through donations and are not typically used to
seeking loan funds, there are opportunities to
gain their participation in the CWSRF program
through effective outreach and partnership
building.  The key to bringing a coalition of
players together ultimately depends on strong
community-based planning, ensuring public
education and securing the commitment and
financial support of the voting base. These
efforts are apparent in the increasing
commitment of communities and
environmental organizations to address
stormwater pollution challenges across
geopolitical boundaries with the purpose of
long-term protection of water quality.

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