Dear Editor,

As we shelter in our homes and look forward to recovering from the devastation of COVID-19, we must continue to address other persistent problems in New Jersey — including concerns about the environment. 

Our waterways face threats from industrial waste, polluted runoff, pesticides, and aging pipes that can burst or leach lead into our drinking water. Also, last year over 40 lakes were devastated by toxic, hazardous algal blooms (HABs) caused by polluted stormwater runoff. 

For all of New Jersey’s water infrastructure, there’s at least a $40 billion investment needed over the next 20 years, with stormwater requiring $16 billion. With a lack of action taken by the federal government, the onus is on states and local governments to raise the revenue to improve these essential systems. 

One proven and cost-effective solution to stormwater runoff is green infrastructure, which cleans up and absorbs polluted runoff like a sponge. Green infrastructure includes rain gardens, swales, green roofs, and porous pavement. 

We know what needs to be done, but how do we pay for these improvements? The solution is a new tool called a stormwater utility. It allows localities to assess a fee based on the amount of a property’s hard surfaces and the polluted stormwater runoff they contribute. It’s based on a “polluters pay” principle with large commercial properties paying the highest fees.

Stormwater utilities are so effective they exist in 41 states! We recently held a webinar about stormwater management with municipalities in NJ and we plan to do more. Green infrastructure and stormwater utilities are the most cost-effective and equitable way to protect our communities, cherished lakes, and waters. Let’s get going by asking our public officials to implement this proven solution.