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NACWA Calls for New Approaches, Consistency in Water Enforcement Program


Dec. 18, 2009

Keith Jones, NACWA, (202) 533-1803

NACWA Calls for New Approaches, Consistency in Water Enforcement Program

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), in a white paper released this week, called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a new way of thinking and a more consistent and effective approach to how it enforces the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The white paper, Clean Water Enforcement: Challenges and Opportunities for the 21st Century, lays out new approaches that focus on watersheds and urges the agency takes into consideration affordability issues in order to help achieve the next generation of clean water goals.

The white paper responds to EPA’s recently released Clean Water Enforcement Action Plan.  NACWA believes the plan lacks the innovative thinking needed to meet the water quality challenges of the 21st century.  Rather, the plan mirrors the flawed existing enforcement model which focuses exclusively on point sources and does little to address the significant contributions of nonpoint sources to water quality degradation.

“The current focus on the quantity and expense of enforcement actions has created a `one-size-fits-all’ approach to dealing with CWA violations that assumes the same enforcement paradigm will work in all parts of the country,” the paper said.  “The existing enforcement model is not sustainable and will not address our nation’s continuing water quality problems.”

NACWA argues that achieving the next generation of clean water goals requires moving beyond current enforcement policies and exploring new ways of achieving water quality improvements.  Central to this effort is a move towards a watershed approach to permitting and enforcement, which would allow for a more complete understanding of pollution sources within a watershed and better targeting of enforcement actions towards those dischargers that have the most significant impact on water quality.  The white paper also discusses the critical role of increased federal funding for water infrastructure as a key effort to improving water quality, arguing that the federal government must return to its role as a partner with state and local governments in paying for water infrastructure improvements.

An effective enforcement program should also consider the role of affordability.  EPA must revise its affordability guidelines to create a more holistic, equitable, and flexible framework for determining how much cash-strapped communities can afford to spend to meet their clean water objectives, the paper said. 

The white paper was distributed to key EPA offices, members of Congress, and public clean water agencies.

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