Bringing Cleaner Water, Green Jobs to D.C.‘s Suburbs

Sourced from Next City

In 2014, Prince George’s County — bordering Washington, D.C., and nestled between three Chesapeake Bay tributaries — received a mandate from the state. To clean up the bay by 2025, it must retrofit about five percent of its total land area to reduce stormwater runoff, one of the biggest polluters of the county’s streams and rivers. That is 15,000 acres of parking lots, roads and other hard surfaces that can generate thousands of gallons of polluted runoff every time it rains.

Prince George’s County was an early leader in using green infrastructure, such as rain gardens and green roofs, to stop stormwater runoff in its tracks. But, with a growing backlog of water quality improvement projects and an estimated price tag of $1.2 billion, this mandate was a daunting challenge for the county. Around the same time, a report from the Job Opportunities Task Force — a nonprofit that advocates for low-wage, low-skilled Maryland workers — showed that more than 60 percent of workers were leaving Prince George’s County for their jobs.

In 2015, the county saw an opportunity to put its clean water investment to work creating local, well-paying jobs. The county procured private partner Corvias through a public bidding process, and the Clean Water Partnership — the nation’s first community-based public-private partnership — was born.

This approach goes beyond the expectations of a standard public-private partnership to deliver infrastructure faster and cheaper. A concept conceived by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, community-based public-private partnerships are specially adapted to deliver green infrastructure with performance metrics aimed at providing environmental, economic and social benefits in underserved, urban communities.

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