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The Northwest's Water Systems Need A Big, Green Fix, Report Says

Northwest communities are getting their drinking water from aging infrastructure that is costly to maintain and prone to breaking down.

That’s the conclusion of a new report issued by the Olympia-based Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, which is affiliated with The Evergreen State College.

The center's director, Rhys Roth, said those water systems were state-of-the-art when they were built a century ago.

"They're vulnerable to earthquakes, to climatic extremes, to breakdowns that happen year-in and year-out," Roth said.

Now, as they need to be updated, Northwest communities need to look beyond traditional concrete-and-pipe solutions.

“What are the innovations in technology, in green infrastructure, in integrated infrastructure systems that are being adopted?” Roth said.

Water systems across the country face similar challenges, and a price tag of up to $1 trillion. But the report says communities can offset some of those costs with green solutions, including watershed restoration, redesigned floodplains and rain gardens.

"It pays to step back, before moving ahead with business-as-usual approaches, to really consider alternatives that can deliver more community value and be more cost-effective," Roth said.

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<p>West Seattle neighbors put the finishing touches on a rain garden. </p>

Katie Campbell


West Seattle neighbors put the finishing touches on a rain garden.