Contact: Ed Potosnak
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COALITION URGES WATER INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS AS COMPONENT OF COVID-19 RECOVERY STRATEGY IN NEW JERSEY
TRENTON – A diverse group of business, environmental, recreation, community and planning organizations overwhelmingly support legislation to upgrade the Garden State’s water infrastructure discussed today in the Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources.
Groups support investments to upgrade New Jersey’s water infrastructure to protect our communities from damaging floods and harmful stormwater pollution, provide clean drinking water to all households, communities and businesses, and ensure these essential infrastructure investments are a core component of any Sustainable Green Jobs Recovery in New Jersey.
Advocates are also asking for suspensions of water and sewer shut-offs through and beyond the expiration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Smart and coordinated investments in our essential water infrastructures can drive needed public and private investments into our communities, improve water quality, reduce public health disparities and remove toxic contaminants like lead, catalyze economic growth, and spur good local job creation.
“Clean drinking water is a human right and we can’t have a strong economy without clean water – everything runs on it. Improving our water infrastructure is a great way to create good local jobs and recover,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “We appreciate Chairman Karabinchak’s continued environmental leadership and having this conversation. At a time when the state is looking at significant budget deficits, a green jobs recovery can kick start our economy and put workers back to work in good local jobs that enhance our quality of life and protect our environment for future generations. It is time we make these investments.”
Climate change will cause significant, system-wide water quality and quantity issues. Across the country, we can see changes in fresh water availability and water quality, exacerbating existing issues present in our communities and water systems like lead and emerging contaminants. These further highlight existing inefficiencies like leaking pipes and antiquated infrastructures that manage stormwater, such as combined sewer systems.
“At this challenging time in our state’s history, we need to make the right choices and build the economy of the future rather than rebuild the economy of the past. If we do so, we cannot only put people back to work in the sustainable industries of the future, but also improve the health, safety and quality of life of all New Jerseyans, especially urban and communities of color that too often bear the brunt of, flooding and lead-tainted water,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
New Jersey has not maintained, upgraded, or replaced old, antiquated, and in some cases, failing stormwater management systems in years. For all of New Jersey’s water infrastructure, there exists at least a $40 billion investment need over the next 20 years. Stormwater infrastructure alone accounts for over $16 billion of that need.
"More than 70% of small business owners believe clean water protections help spur economic growth," said Richard Lawton, Executive Director of the NJ Sustainable Business Council. "Since clean water is good for business, the increasing risk of flooding and HABs underscores the urgent need to invest in modernizing our outdated water systems. Building green stormwater infrastructure will create jobs, protect the health of our communities, and make local economies more resilient."
"We very much appreciate the Governor's wisdom and leadership in the Administration's response to COVID-19 and the changing climate. It is the Governor's holistic understanding that unless we deal effectively with all the stressors that are in conflict with New Jersey's sustainable future, which includes the global pandemic, failing water infrastructure, environmental injustice, reliance on fossil fuels, etc., we will never achieve true climate resiliency," said Elliott Ruga, Policy & Communications Director, New Jersey Highlands Coalition.
"Climate change is intricately intertwined with the global water crisis and exacerbates pressure on our outdated water infrastructure. Investments in smart water infrastructure can protect our communities and our planet by eliminating contaminants in drinking water sources, capturing stormwater for use, reducing water lost to leakage, and cleaning wastewater and polluted runoff. Water infrastructure should be a priority as the legislature looks for investments which put New Jersey back to work and build back better," said Kirsten James, Water Program Director, Ceres.
"Investing in water infrastructure is vital to meeting both the immediate and long-term public health needs of New Jersey residents," said Eric Miller, NJ Energy Policy Director at NRDC. "Supporting a just and equitable recovery requires that all New Jerseyans have access to clean water in their homes. But given that many families are still facing financial hardship, the state should suspend water and sewer shut-offs beyond the expiration of the emergency declaration – and do so quickly.”
“Building resilience to future disasters through a green recovery to Covid-19 is wise use of taxpayer dollars that help put New Jersey back to work on restoring our future. Investments in water infrastructure are supported by the Rise to Resilience coalition because they are job-creators and help reduce costs over time We encourage the legislature to support this important initiative,” said Kate Boicourt, Director of Resilience, Waterfront Alliance.
In addition to upgrading water infrastructure, a joint letter from coalition members was sent to Governor Murphy and Legislative leaders, which highlighted the following core components essential to a post-COVID-19 Sustainable Green Jobs Recovery: advancing clean energy, updating parks and trails, and building resilience to climate disasters. You can read the letter urging investments to drive a Sustainable Green Jobs Recovery in New Jersey at https://www.njlcv.org/news/letter-sustainable-green-jobs-recovery-new-jersey