Green jobs and energy have been given new life by the stimulus bill. While environmental issues took a backseat at the beginning of the recession, the stimulus spending has reawakened the sense that green jobs can create a sustainable economy and slow the rapid pace of climate change. For a variety of reasons, energy has dominated the conversation, but there are other important environmental provisions in the bill. Principal among these is another, though not nearly as talked about, of the world’s other major resource problem we’re facing: water. The spending portion of the stimulus bill provides for a whole range of problems surrounding water on a regional scale:
- $290 million for watershed and flood prevention activities
- $50 million for watershed rehabilitation
- $1.38 billion for rural water and waste disposal loans and grants
- $1 billion for Bureau of Reclamation Water and Related Resources treatment facilities
These programs, among other water and environmental cleanup measures, are being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and Department of Agriculture.
The severe weather resulting from climate change, increasing population, demographic shifts, and agricultural stresses are creating problems for water availability (see the 3rd UN World Water Development Report for more info). These problems are manifest in the US too, and this is reflected in stimulus package spending. As one of the most basic of human needs and one of the most dangerous weather threats, it will create jobs to build, staff, and maintain water treatment plants, enact flood prevention measures, and clean up, replant, and landscape for the ecological restoration of watersheds. While these efforts don’t have the commercial appeal of renewable energy, they are nonetheless just as essential for the environment, economy, and long-range viability of our communities.