In 2015, Geos Institute’s Freeways for Fish program surpassed its long-term goal of restoring native fish access to over 1,200 river miles in the Rogue River Basin. By healing damaged habitat, removing outdated infrastructure, and restoring natural water flow patterns, the Rogue River Basin and its salmon are now better prepared for the impacts of climate change.
Surpassing this restoration goal also marked an inflection point for us. As we helped recover native fish habitat over the past thirteen years, we discovered that towns and water utilities were also reaping the benefits of cleaner water as a result of our projects.
Nature is a brilliant engineer. Healthy forests and healthy watersheds provide clean, reliable drinking water for people and wildlife, free of charge. Natural systems like floodplains, healthy forests, and free-flowing rivers are called green infrastructure, because when they are working, they can naturally ensure safe, sustainable drinking water. Green infrastructure is effective, inexpensive, and regenerative.
“Headwaters forests provide over 60% of the American West’s water supply and they are in grave danger.”
-Carpe Diem West
Today, many places rely almost exclusively on grey infrastructure, human-built solutions like dams and filtration technologies. Grey infrastructure, while highly effective, is also expensive to build, maintain, replace, and upgrade. And, as we move into the 21st century, we face new water safety challenges. Our environment, climate, and communities are changing, and existing infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand.
Working Waters believes that green infrastructure is an essential complement to gray infrastructure – and often a missing piece - in today’s water management strategies. It has the power to improve water quality and restore natural lands while helping reduce water utility costs, benefiting everyone from source to tap.