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Innovastructure: Innovative Infrastructure for better and healthier communities

January 31, 2012

In his State of Union Address, President Obama kept returning to the importance of investing in infrastructure and encouraging innovation throughout.

Kudos to you Mr. President!

Photo Courtesy and copyrighted : Mr. Anshuman Atroley, WWF India

Footover Bridge

Innovative infrastructure systems can encourage

  • Economic growth,
  • Connect communities, and
  • Provide goods and services like potable water.

From bridges to dams to wastewater and water treatment plants, properly functioning infrastructure is critical to healthy communities.

Today, sadly, many of our infrastructure systems are crumbling and outdated.

The President quoted: “So much of America needs to be rebuilt.”

Our water infrastructure systems in particular are in critical need of investment, upgrades, and innovation.

It’s not surprising to learn that in 2009, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems received a grade of D minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Yet, with these challenges come opportunities to rethink traditional approaches to infrastructure and incorporate innovative strategies that take into account 21st century challenges from increased urbanization to a changing climate.

All the major dams and bridges might have been the pinnacle of innovation during the 1930s, but today we must look to more advanced thinking and cost effective approaches to water and wastewater management.  

“A lot of the infrastructure for drinking water is very old. In the District of Columbia, some of it predates the Civil War. Lead pipes used to be standard back then! But updating it is expensive, and nobody is sure how we’re going to pay the bill.”– Olga Naidenko

Polluted runoffs, one of the only growing sources of water pollution in not only the United States but globally, can be addressed with green infrastructure practices that work by

  • Capturing
  • Storing and
  • Treating rainwater where it falls.

In other words, watershed management should be encouraged at all possible places especially in the areas which receive less precipitation annually.

Sustainable hydropower should be encouraged by bringing effective Public Private Partnership (PPP) into play. The government should not approve the projects which shall affect the biodiversity and ecosystem adversely. The corporate should be discouraged for investing in the projects which are not viable and whose cumulative impact has not been assessed. The impact can also be minimized by reusing existing dams, water supply pipes and irrigation canals.

The regions within the infrastructure development projects should be identified on the basis of their sensitivity and which are endemic to the biodiversity. These should be left undisturbed.

Water efficiency measures that use the available water resources consciously can save money and protect water supplies for communities. These can go very well hand and in hand if we try to protect and restore natural infrastructure, like wetlands, mangroves and floodplains. These provide critical safeguards against flooding and often at a much lower cost than traditional flood protection measures.

In his address, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to clean water and healthy communities when he said, “I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.”

Investing in innovative approaches to water infrastructure will keep our water clean, save taxpayers’ money, and help reduce flood damage.

Innovastructure is the need of the hour.

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