IL Governor signs Clean Water Initiative into law

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CHICAGO, IL, July 23, 2014 -- Today, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law legislation that will provide much-needed financial support for communities throughout the state to improve their stormwater, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, while also helping make these essential systems better prepared to deal with the impacts of climate change.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) worked with the legislature and with Quinn's administration to develop the legislation, known as the Clean Water Initiative (CWI), and worked to support the bill's passage. Under the CWI, green infrastructure would be eligible for financial assistance from the state's water infrastructure fund.

As the climate warms, Illinois communities can expect more extreme rainfall events interspersed with longer periods of dry conditions that can lower water supplies. The state's water systems were not designed with the increased risks of drought and the extreme precipitation that climate change is making more common. Making more efficient use of water helps make communities better prepared for dry periods like the drought that gripped Illinois in 2012, for example.

On the other extreme, more frequent intense storms cause stormwater systems to back up, resulting in flooded streets and basements. Already this year, Illinois cities have dealt with local flooding caused by extreme precipitation multiple times -- a trend that will continue as climate change impacts become more acute. Quinn has dealt with these issues more broadly as a member of the president's Climate Preparedness and Resiliency Task Force.

"As climate continues to warp our weather, Illinois needs to encourage communities to make their water infrastructure more resilient to both extreme precipitation and drought," said Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst at NRDC. "The bill Governor Quinn signs today will help communities' water infrastructure meets the changing demands of the future using new strategies that bring real bang for the buck like green infrastructure and water efficiency."

Extreme precipitation events cause flooding in urban areas when stormwater systems get overwhelmed. Both NRDC and CNT have done research showing that green infrastructure projects can help prevent urban flooding, cut pollution runoff into rivers and lakes, and replenish the supply of fresh water, saving money at the same time.

"Illinois residents, businesses and farmers have been suffering the devastating effects of unusually severe flooding, drought or both. Climate change is likely to make these events more common," said Hal Sprague, water policy manager at CNT. "The bill Governor Quinn signs today will help us manage such water challenges better and more cost-effectively, treating rain as a valuable resource and allowing us to implement systems and infrastructure that protect our homes, investments and the environment."

See also:

"New era ushered in as Gov. Quinn signs resource recovery legislation" (External link)

"IL Gov. marks $2B for statewide clean water, stormwater management projects"

"Illinois' aging water infrastructure to be overhauled in $1B Clean Water initiative"

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