On May 20, DC Water announced an agreement to modify a 2005 consent decree to incorporate large-scale green infrastructure installations into its Clean Rivers Project for the Potomac River and Rock Creek. Complementing this plan, the utility also announced a training and certification program to prepare and hire D.C. residents for green jobs.

The $2.6-billion-project eliminates the previously planned underground tunnel for Rock Creek. Instead, by 2030, stormwater runoff will be managed through green infrastructure, and targeted portions of the combined sewer system in the area will be separated.

An additional agreement between DC Water and the District of Columbia will support local job creation. The agreement will result in an ambitious local jobs program that includes training and certification opportunities for D.C. residents interested in green infrastructure construction and maintenance jobs. DC Water also will engage professional service firms and contractors based in D.C. to perform green infrastructure work.

The “announcement is a win-win: it provides environmental benefits to our community and creates pathways to the middle class for district residents in the emerging field of green infrastructure,” said Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “DC Water’s commitment to hire district residents for 51% of new jobs created by green infrastructure contracts or procurements highlights D.C.’s innovative approach to creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity.”

DC Water has been exploring the use of green infrastructure for reducing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) since 2011. The updated agreement reached with the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice will achieve water quality improvements comparable to a previous tunnel-only plan. By incorporating green infrastructure, however, DC Water will reduce the burden on ratepayers and also help improve natural habitats, enhance public spaces, and support local jobs.

For the Potomac River, DC Water still plans to build an underground tunnel capable of holding 114,000 m3 (30 million gal.) of combined stormwater and sewage. In addition, the utility will construct green infrastructure and separate some sewers to manage runoff in this area. Green infrastructure components are scheduled to be in place by 2027, and the sewer separation will be complete by 2023.

The Anacostia River CSO solution, a 21-km-long (13.1 mi) underground storage tunnel, remains unchanged. Already under construction, it is on time and on budget for completion in 2022, and it will begin providing environmental benefits as early as 2018.