Clean Water Current - May 2
The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee overwhelming approved the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill last week, advancing the legislation to the Senate floor with a number of significant changes to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The 19-1 vote on April 28 showed strong bipartisan support for the bill, which will provide much needed investment in clean water infrastructure, while also making long overdue improvements to the CWA that will benefit clean water utilities.
Many of NACWA’s key legislative priorities from recent years are included in the bill including creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund, codification of integrated planning, and substantial revisions to EPA’s affordability guidance. The Association strongly supported the legislation, and additional analysis is available in Advocacy Alert 16-07 and this week’s The Water Voice blog. NACWA also published a press release applauding the bill and thanking the Senate EPW Committee, especially Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), for their leadership in assembling and passing this ambitious legislation.
The full Senate is expected to consider the bill in June. The House has yet to introduce its WRDA bill but is likely to do so soon. NACWA will be working closely with the House to include key elements of the Senate bill in its legislation. If the Senate and House both pass a WRDA bill, the legislation will then head to a conference committee to iron out differences, followed by efforts to pass a conference bill by both chambers. NACWA will continue to provide updates as developments progress, and will inform members on how to best engage in advocacy efforts moving forward.
NACWA, together with the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) and several state and regional biosolids organizations wrote the head of GlobalG.A.P (Good Agricultural Practice) on April 27 requesting a meeting to discuss its limitations on the use of biosolids. The private organization’s agricultural production standards prohibit the use of biosolids of any kind on fields subscribed to the standards.
Adherence to the standards is expanding in Europe and across the United States. Last week’s joint letter highlighted that an outright ban on the use of biosolids sends the wrong message to producers and the public and unnecessarily restricts the beneficial reuse of a material that has many advantages over commercial fertilizers. The letter sought a meeting to learn more about the standards and the ban on biosolids use. NACWA’s Biosolids Committee will discuss next steps when it meets in July during NACWA’s Utility Leadership Conference.
Staff from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Program briefed NACWA April 28 on their recent restructuring and ongoing monitoring projects – and also sought input from the Association on utility water quality and quantity data needs. The USGS Water Program is working on a range of initiatives, including broadening their real-time monitoring capability through the National Water Quality Network, maintaining current programs that evaluate water quantity-related issues, and evaluating data on the corrosivity of source water in light of recent events in Flint. They also continue to focus on nutrient monitoring in the Mississippi River and other major river basins.
The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project has long provided regional and national understanding of water-quality conditions, trends, and how water quality is impacted by natural and human activities. Many NACWA members participate in the NAWQA Collaborative Water Monitoring Program and/or rely on the USGS data to establish baselines, understand receiving water flow and quality conditions, and track progress over time.
During the meeting NACWA encouraged USGS to put their work on occurrence of emerging contaminants in context with the relative risk to human health and the environment, as the agency has been doing more frequently in recent studies. NACWA, WEF and other key water sector stakeholders coordinate annually to help support funding for USGS water programs, and the Association will be working with WEF in the coming weeks to develop a letter in support of sustainable funding for these important water quality monitoring programs.
NACWA was warmly welcomed last week at a gathering of Florida water utilities executives sponsored by the Florida Water Environment Association (WEA). The discussion focused on key affordability issues, the need for integrated watershed planning, and the increasing role of water reuse and water reclamation in the state.
Florida WEA exemplifies the type of collaboration NACWA and state water sector organization can have, as witnessed by the detailed two-page summary in the program brochure (see related image). The summary describes the strong collaboration between Florida WEA and NACWA, as well as the benefits the Association’s advocacy provides to Florida utilities both small and large. The summary was authored by NACWA Board Member Suzanne Goss with JEA (Electric, Water & Sewer) in Jacksonville, and the meeting was hosted by Brian Wheeler, Executive Director of NACWA Member Agency the Toho Water Authority in Kissimmee.
NACWA, representatives from its water sector organization partners, and the EPA met April 28 to discuss next steps on the Effective Utility Management (EUM) initiative now that the EUM Steering Group has delivered its report suggesting revisions to the original Ten Attributes and Five Keys to Management Success. The Steering Group was convened to review the EUM attributes in light of several major contextual shifts in the water sector since original publication of the report in 2007, including a growing focus on the Water Resources Utility of the Future. The Steering Group’s report includes key updates to the attributes and keys, while leaving the overall structure of the original effort in place. The partner organizations met to discuss new efforts to update the watereum.org website, the EUM Primer and a proactive initiative to promote the EUM effort across the sector.
NACWA also plans to incorporate the revised Ten Attributes and Five Keys to Management Success into its Excellence in Management (EIM) Recognition Program for 2017. The Association’s EIM program recognizes significant achievements of Member Agencies in the utility management arena.
On Tuesday, April 26 the House passed by voice vote two bills addressing water ecosystem protection and restoration. H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act, would authorize the GLRI from FY 2016 – FY 2020 at a level of $300 million per year. GLRI funds are allocated by EPA to various federal agencies that, in turn, support federal, state, and local projects. The prevention and mitigation of nonpoint source pollution is one of several focus areas for funding, and numerous POTWs, including NACWA members, have leveraged these funds in recent years. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Joyce (R-OH) and enjoys significant bipartisan support. A Senate companion bill, S.1024, was reported out of Committee in February and awaits floor action. S. 1024 was also included in the Senate’s 2016 WRDA Bill (see WRDA article).
The House also approved legislation to amend the CWA to reauthorize the National Estuary Program (NEP) at $26.5 million per year from FY 2017 – FY 2021. The NEP provides grants to state, regional and local entities, including water pollution control agencies, to address urgent and challenging threats to the ecological and economic well-being of coastal areas. The bill the House passed is an amended S. 1523, the Senate companion bill sponsored by Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) which passed that chamber in August 2015.
On May 12, EPA and USGS will host a webinar on the draft report. The agencies will discuss its contents, purpose and scope. To participate in the hour-long webinar go to https://epawebconferencing.acms.com/epa-usgs/ on May 12 at 2:00 pm Eastern. No registration is necessary.
On Wednesday, April 27 Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation that would authorize the U.S. Treasury to issue up to $200 million in federal ‘Climate Change Bonds’ per year. Under S.2860, the Climate Change Adapt America Bond Act, consumers would purchase the bonds to raise money for climate-resilient infrastructure investments. Bond revenue would go into a newly-created Adapt America Fund administered by the Secretary of Commerce and guided by a newly-established Climate Advisory Commission. States and local governments would apply to the Adapt America Fund to finance projects such as desalination plants and flood control infrastructure. Recipients would be required match at least 25 percent of funds received.
Sen. Boxer, Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, has long-supported climate adaptation issues, but is retiring after the 114th Congress. This joint legislative effort suggests Sen. Durbin’s interest in championing climate adaptation moving forward. In introducing the bill, the Senators explained that the bonds are modeled on the “Victory Bonds” effort of World War II.
Congress Considers Key CWA Reforms
The 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed last week by a Senate committee contains significant changes to the Clean Water Act. What could this mean for NACWA members and clean water utilities nationwide? This week in The Water Voice, NACWA’s Chief Advocacy, Officer Nathan Gardner-Andrews, discusses highlights of the bill, its impact on the municipal clean water sector, and why this just might be the year Congress approves much-needed CWA changes that would benefit clean water agencies.
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