A Brief Overview of Green Infrastructure Research &
Activities at EPA
James (Jim) Wickham
[email protected]
Office of Research & Development
Research Triangle Park, NC
Pinch-hitting for …
Matt Nicholson
US EPA, Region III
Philadelphia, PA
GI Activities at EPA
• Integrating built and natural infrastructure solutions
- Will it work?
- Can it be implemented at the scales needed?
• Overcoming institutional and sectoral silos
-What policies are needed to support investment in natural infrastructure as an
integral part of water infrastructure (e.g., ecosystem services)?
- What tools exist or can be further developed to invest in natural infrastructure
at the watershed level (e.g., ecosystem service payments)?
• Infrastructure optimization
-What needs to be done to make it happen?
- Are there places where it is happening?
EPA Authorities
Clean Water Act 33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972) – First major legislation
established following formation of EPA in 1970.
 Regulate discharge of pollutants in to the nations waterways
 http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/cwahistory.html
Safe Drinking Water Act 42 U.S.C. §300f et seq. (1974) – The Act authorizes EPA
to establish minimum standards to protect tap water and requires all owners or
operators of public water systems to comply with these primary (healthrelated) standards.
 http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/sdwa.html
Clean Air Act (1970) – This legislation authorized the development of
comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both
stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources.
 http://epa.gov/oar/caa/caa_history.html
Green Infrastructure Activities at EPA
1) MultiResolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium
2) EPA (Atlanta) – Southeastern Ecological Framework (SEF)
3) EPA (Chicago) – Critical Ecosystem Assessment Model (CrEAM)
4) EPA (Philadelphia) – Initiated a GI “Community of Practice”
5) Towards a Sustainable America (President’s Council on Sustainable
Development) (clinton2.nara.gov/PCSD/Publications/tsa.pdf)
6) EPA (Office of Research & Development) – Renewed emphasis on GI
as a research area (predominantly “gray” infrastructure)
7) EPA (Office of Water) Healthy Waters Initiative
MultiResolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium
In operation since ~ 1995
A successful bottom-up e-government initiative to provide digital land-cover data for
nation. Includes almost all federal agencies (USGS, NOAA, USFS, EPA, USDA, OSM, Census, DOT,
Developing into a land-cover monitoring program (change detection)
All major U.S. operational remote sensing programs have depended on MRLC data pool or
classification technology
 NLCD (www.mrlc.gov)
 C-CAP (www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast)
 CDL (nassgeodata.gmu.edu/CropScape)
 LANDFIRE (www.landfire.gov)
 GAP (gapanalysis.usgs.gov)
Wickham J, Homer C, Fry J, Vogelmann J, Mueller R, Herold N, Coulston J. in review. The Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium – 20 years of
development and integration of U.S. national land cover data. Remote Sensing of Environment.
MultiResolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium
GI Activities at EPA
Forest-wetland networks in US by number of core (hub) areas in network
Wickham, Riitters, Wade, Vogt (2010) A national assessment of green infrastructure … using morphological image processing. Landsc. Urban Plann. 94:186-195
Maryland Greenprint
Uses GI maps and other ecological models to “optimize” financial resources
allocated for conservation.
Weber, T., Sloan, A., Wolf, J., 2006. Maryland’s green infrastructure
assessment: development of a comprehensive approach to land
conservation. Landscape Urban Plan. 77, 94–110.
Weber, T., 2004. Landscape ecological assessment of the Chesapeake
Bay watershed. Environ. Monit. Assess. 94, 39–53.
Maryland Greenprint
Maryland Greenprint
Clean Water Act (Recovery Potential)
Clean Water Act (“water” infrastructure)
Sections 305(b) and 303(d) – ‘engine’ of CWA
reporting; states submit biennial reports of
waterbody condition [305(b)] of which some
are impaired [303(d)]
TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) – a
assessment of the factors causing impairment
and the maximum levels (loads) that can be
allowed while still meeting water quality
It is easier to detect impairment than restore functionality and thus there are
about 40,000 identified impaired waters (303(d)).
Little guidance on prioritization of impaired waters
Norton DJ, Wickham J, Wade TG, Kunert K, Thomas JV, Zeph P. 2009. A method for comparative analysis of recovery potential in
impaired waters restoration planning. Environmental Management 44:356-368.
Clean Water Act (Recovery Potential)
Blue = ongoing or completed projects
Yellow =
Gray =
Project started ~2008.
Training offered in all 50 states.
Projects ongoing in 15 states.
EPA sponsors website
Recovery potential – comparative site analysis (conducted by states) to identified the set of impaired
waters mostly likely to recovery if restoration was implemented.
Healthy Watersheds Initiative
Clean Water Act (overall mission) – Restore and protected the nation’s waters
It is less expensive to protect than it is to restore!
 Expand focus to include protection of healthy, intact systems
EPA – Healthy Watersheds Initiative
Goals – 1) identify network of healthy watersheds, 2) integrate into EPA, 3) outreach
 Stakeholder – work with local & state partners; serve as a hub
 Act as an “integrator” of conservation efforts nationwide
Website: www.epa.gov/healthywatersheds
EPA 2011. Healthy Watersheds Initiative: National Framework and Action Plan. EPA, Office of Water, EPA
Drinking Water
Drinking water resources are protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA)
• Estab. 1974 (P.L. 93-523); amended 1986 (P.L. 99-399) & 1996 (P.L. 104-182).
• 1974 – passed law after studies reveal widespread problems due to poor
operating procedures, inadequate facilities, uneven management.
(EPA = regulatory authority; states = implementation and enforcement)
• SDWA establishes standards for public water supplies, control of underground
injection of waste, financing of infrastructure, and …
• 1986 – increase pace of regulated contaminants & groundwater protection.
• 1996 – sweeping changes; source water protection (watersheds).
• Approximately two-thirds of the US population relies on drinking water
from surface sources (Levin et al. 2002, US EPA 2008).
Source: Tiemann (2008) Congressional Research Service, Order Code RL31243
Drinking Water
1996 amendments co-occurred with shift toward protection & conservation
• NYC filtration avoidance determination (NRC 2000)
• Treatment cost decline by 20% for every 10% increase in forest (10%-60% forest)1
• Several US cities have opted for watershed preservation to avoid the capital costs of
• Approximately 35 of 105 of the world’s larger cities have invested in watershed
preservation to secure drinking water3
• New guidance document on protecting natural resources in drinking water
1 Ernst
C, Gullick R, Nixon K (2004) Protecting the source: conserving forests to protect water. Opflow 30:1–7
Postel SL, Thompson BH Jr (2005) Watershed protection: capturing the benefits of nature’s water supply
services. Natural Resources Forum 29:98–108
Dudley N, Stolton S (2003) Running pure: the importance of forest protected areas to drinking water. World Bank/
World Wildlife Fund International. www.worldbank.org
WRI(2013) Natural infrastructure: Investing in forested landscapes for source water protection in the United States.
World Resources Institute
Drinking Water
Drinking Water
Wickham J, Flather CH. 2013. Integrating biodiversity and drinking water protection goals through geographic analysis. Diversity and Distributions 19:1198-1207.
Wickham J, Wade, T, Riitters K. 2011. An environmental assessment of US drinking water watersheds. Landscape Ecology 26:605-616.
Are local, stakeholder-driven conservation efforts accounting for a national perspective and
how green infrastructure might be changing?
Are local, stakeholder-driven conservation efforts taking Clean Water Act information (e.g.,
impaired waters, state revolving fund) into account?
Are local, stakeholder-driven conservation efforts taking Safe Drinking Water Act
information (drinking water intakes, drinking water state revolving fund) into account?
Are local, stakeholder-driven conservation efforts contacting EPA Healthy Watersheds
Initiative personnel (they’d like to know about it, and may be able to help)?
Matt Nicholson (nicholson.matt) [EPA, Region III]
Doug Norton ([email protected]) [Recovery Potential]
Laura Gabanski ([email protected]) [Healthy Watersheds Initiative]
Anne Neale ([email protected]) [EnviroAtlas]

A Brief Overview of Green Infrastructure Research & Activities