Clean Water Current- October 3
Congress Advances Clean Water Legislation, Government Funding Bill
The House of Representatives took an important step forward last week in advancing much needed clean water policy reforms by passing H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, by a bipartisan vote of 399-25. Congress also passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 until early December. President Obama signed the CR on September 29. More information about these developments is available in Advocacy Alert 16-13.
Lawmakers have now left Washington for the election recess and are not anticipated to return until mid-November. Passage by the House of its WRDA package, combined with the Senate’s passage of its related bill in September, means that congressional staff can now work to reconcile the different proposals in time to pass final legislation when Congress returns after the election.
The passage of WRDA in both chambers with such overwhelming support demonstrates that water is a truly bipartisan issue and one that can attract significant attention from Congress. How the process to reconcile the two bills will play out is still unclear, however, and it is possible that the Clean Water Act revisions from the Senate version will not be included in a final package. NACWA will be working hard over the coming weeks to encourage lawmakers to include as many of the elements from the Senate bill as possible.
Congress will also have to hammer out a government funding deal for the remainder of FY 2017 when it returns to Washington. The most likely path forward will be an omnibus funding bill. NACWA will continue advocating for key appropriations priorities such as increased funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in the omnibus.
NACWA members and staff joined more than 20,000 water professionals last week in New Orleans for WEFTEC16. The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) committee meetings and special sessions throughout the conference featured a number of discussions around key water policy issues. EPA leaders from the Office of Water headlined the Clean Water Policy Discussion on September 26, with updates on the activities of the Office of Wastewater Management, the Office of Science & Technology, the Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds, and the Office of Ground Water & Drinking Water.
NACWA and WEF collaborated again this year to convene the Utility Leaders Morning on September 27. Peter Joo Hee Ng, Chief Executive for the Public Utilities Board of Singapore and George Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of DC Water, kicked off the morning with perspectives on fostering innovation at water utilities. Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, initiated a discussion with his office directors highlighting the Agency’s continued focus on nutrients, including a recent memo to the states stressing the importance of making continued progress, as well as EPA’s efforts to explore the issue of low income water affordability issues. The highlight of the morning was the Utility of the Future Today recognition ceremony (see related story).
Big data issues and the potential for data collection and analytics to change the face of clean water were a recurring theme throughout the conference. The opening keynote from Joe Whitworth, President of NACWA Affiliate Member The Freshwater Trust, helped seed additional discussions during the week, including a conversation with EPA about the role of big data and how it will impact clean water compliance. A policy session on the last day of the conference, featuring Chief Information Officers from NACWA Member Agencies the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, as well as EPA and NACWA staff, explored both the potential for big data to help clean water utilities but also where barriers remain.
NACWA congratulates WEF for another successful WEFTEC.
The Association is proud that over 70% of the utilities receiving honors last week at a special Utility of the Future (UOTF) Today recognition ceremony were NACWA Member Agencies. The ceremony, part of the Utility Leaders Morning at WEFTEC16 (see related article), celebrated the progress and exceptional performance of clean water utilities – while supporting the widespread adoption of the innovative UOTF business model.
The UOTF concept was first introduced in 2013 by NACWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Water Environment Research Foundation (now WE&RF) to guide utilities of all sizes toward smarter, more efficient operations and a progression to full resource recovery with enhanced productivity, sustainability, and resiliency. Since then NACWA’s collaborative work in support of the UOTF principles has continued, and many utilities have successfully implemented new and creative programs to address both technical and community challenges.
The UOTF Today recognition program builds on this success by celebrating these advancements, encouraging the adoption of UOTF principles, and enabling utilities across a broad range of capacities and capabilities to collaborate, learn, and continue to evolve as a unified sector. NACWA congratulates its 43 Member Agency recipients of Utility of the Future Today honors.
NACWA raised concerns with EPA’s use of the biotic ligand model (BLM) in the revised saltwater criteria for copper in a September 27 letter . While NACWA has previously supported application of the BLM to the saltwater criteria, the Association’s letter stressed that the BLM should not be integrated into the criteria calculation, but instead should be left as an option for use in implementing the criteria.
Also concerning for NACWA is the use of substitute or approximated values for the key BLM inputs in EPA’s proposed revisions. As the Association noted in comments earlier this year (on a technical support document on using the BLM) use of default values defies the intent of using the BLM, which is to derive more reliable estimates of aquatic life sensitivity based on site-specific information. Using such default values will only introduce more uncertainty. NACWA also raised concerns about relying on too few data points for setting national criteria recommendations. Several NACWA members submitted comments directly to EPA, as well, raising concerns with the draft revision.
Celebrating 15 years of executive education designed specifically for water and wastewater professionals – The Water & Wastewater Leadership Center is now accepting applications for its 2017 class. The Leadership Center is a joint venture of NACWA, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) – in collaboration with the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC).
Exceptional leadership is essential as water and wastewater utilities strive to thrive as utilities of the future. The Water & Wastewater Leadership Center arms utility executives with the management and leadership skills they need to excel as they meet the challenges of today – and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. The Center is comprised of an intensive training program including a 360 degree assessment of leadership style, unlimited peer networking and enhanced leadership curriculum tailored specifically to the water sector.
To facilitate attendance by utility leaders with travel prohibitions to North Carolina, the 2017 Leadership Center will be convened at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia. All classes will be taught by the Center’s existing exceptional faculty from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Center offers exceptional curriculum taught by unequaled faculty, invaluable connection to others in the sector, and a truly unparalleled learning experience. NACWA invites you to learn more and apply today at the Leadership Center’s new website – www.waterleadership.org.
EPA released the anticipated update to the Climate Resilience Evaluation & Assessment Tool (CREAT) last week, providing a newly enhanced resiliency tool for clean water utilities. The online CREAT 3.0 program was designed to help water utility professionals develop climate adaptation plans based on site-specific threats posed by climate change. The update also includes climate projection maps that can model a variety of severe weather situations, such as the precipitation intensity for a 100-year storm.
In addition to the modelling updates, many of the features of CREAT 3.0 are interactive maps, where utility managers can view case studies of users of similar size, location or climate risk. NACWA Member Agency the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) encouraged EPA to include this functionality and provided one of the first case studies outlining how CCMUA has combatted combined sewage flooding and reduced vulnerabilities posed by sea level rise. Utilities with adaptation success stories to share may also submit them via this link to be added to the map, so other utilities can learn from their experiences.
Join NACWA’s Energy Workgroup on October 6 for an engaging webinar on how wastewater treatment plants manage energy demands while maximizing the utilization of green power. The webinar will feature a special presentation by David Duest, Co-Chair of the Workgroup, on the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s (MWRA) advanced Deer Island Treatment Plant. Currently, the Deer Island facility employs a variety of renewable energy sources in the operation of the plant, including digester gas, solar and wind energy.
The international wipes position statement has been signed by 175 organizations from 14 countries, including NACWA and 15 of its Member Agencies. The statement emphasizes that only the 3 Ps – pee, poop, and toilet paper – should be flushed, that wastewater utilities do not accept any current flushability guidance for wipes, and that all wipes should be clearly labeled “Do Not Flush.” Additional supporting organizations will continue to be added on an ongoing basis.
EPA has announced a series of informational sessions on the Agency's plans to implement the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, a new financing mechanism to accelerate investment in water infrastructure. WIFIA is designed to provide loans for up to 49 percent of eligible costs for projects of at least $20 million for large communities and $5 million for small communities (population of 25,000 or less). EPA anticipates implementing the program this year as funds become available through Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations. EPA is currently developing program rules and guidelines and considering comments submitted by NACWA and other organizations in July.
The upcoming informational sessions are designed to provide more details on WIFIA program basics and implementation schedules. The intended audiences are potential WIFIA applicants – including municipal entities, corporations, partnerships, and State Revolving Fund programs – and private and non-governmental organizations that support potential applicants. The locations and dates for the sessions are as follows:
NEW YORK, NY
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
LOS ANGELES, CA
To learn more about these sessions, please visit www.epa.gov/wifia.
On September 30 NACWA submitted comments to EPA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in support of the wet weather consent decree negotiated by the City of Haverhill, Massachusetts. The decree is focused on reducing CSOs and allows Haverhill to engage in integrated planning, encourages the use of green infrastructure, and anticipates modification as Haverhill studies its sewer system. NACWA’s comments focused on the benefits of these provisions and the flexibility they provide.
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