Growing Acceptance for Cost-Saving, Natural Infrastructure

With National Arbor Day upon us, Potomac Conservancy Board Member and long-time friend, G. Tracy Mehan, III signals an important trend as local stakeholders show growing acceptance for investing in both green and gray infrastructure to achieve source water protections.

Mehan reviews three publications on forests, natural infrastructure, and engineered solutions in the May/June 2014 edition of The Environmental Forum, published by the Environmental Law Institute (

Backed by the latest findings, Mehan notes a marked change in attitude by local stakeholders, utility managers, and decision-makers toward natural infrastructure solutions, and the economic and environmental benefits of protecting and enhancing upstream forested landscapes. As Mehan points out, “…it makes environmental and economic sense to protect and manage these forests to produce downstream services – clean water.”

It is common for municipalities and water management facilities to turn to costly engineered solutions, known as ‘gray infrastructure’, as their primary means to improve water quality. Yet, upstream conservation practices have proven to be a least-cost and complementary option that produces significant water quality outcomes and provides additional benefits to hydrological flow, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. Mehan confirms that a methodology that incorporates green solutions, “is preventative in nature which is less expensive than treatment after the fact.”

Read Mehan’s full literature here, or click on the image in the top right.

G. Tracy Mehan, III is currently a Principal with The Cadmus Group, Inc., an environmental consulting firm with offices in Arlington, Virginia. Mehan is a member of the Water Environment Federation and the Environmental Law Institute. He also serves as an adjunct professor in environmental law at George Mason University Law School. Mehan has served as a member of Potomac Conservancy’s Board of Directors since 2006 and has been instrumental in helping advance the Conservancy’s strategic land conservation program.