21st Century Challenges & Opportunities
The nation’s public clean water agencies, as well as the communities and households they serve, are facing ongoing impacts from the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. In this context, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and States with delegated Clean Water Act authority continue to impose costly regulatory requirements on, and pursue enforcement actions against, these utilities without fully considering the economic conditions impacting these agencies and the effectiveness of these expenditures in meeting environmental goals. NACWA is working to establish a new approach to assessing affordability and community financial capability limits that incorporates sound economic principles and encourages flexibility and innovation towards meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act in a sustainable manner.
Both the House and Senate are making the review of Clean Water Act jurisdiction a top priority. Various Supreme Court decisions on what constitutes a “water of the U.S.” — a threshold issue for determining whether the federal government has oversight authority over key water bodies — have narrowed the scope of federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Congress is seeking to legislatively reverse these decisions and NACWA has been supportive of these efforts and seeking to ensure that key concerns of the clean water community are addressed as this process plays out on Capitol Hill.
Issues associated with climate change are already affecting clean water agencies and the effects will only increase in the future as the public and governments at all levels become more concerned about climate change. NACWA believes that climate change is primarily a water issue, and the Association's advocacy focuses on the interrelationships between water resources and climate change, including the needs of clean water agencies in adapting to climate change impacts and further research about these impacts. NACWA is also committed to ensuring that greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment are accurately estimated and that any mitigation efforts that target wastewater are reasonable.
Clean water helps drive our economy. Without water, power plants can’t generate electricity and other producers require a consistent intake of water for their energy-development needs. Water and wastewater treatment are significant energy users as well. The water-energy nexus is where many cross-cutting issues meet: utility energy use and the reduction of the municipal carbon footprint; the energy sector’s role in water conservation and efficiency; and, of course, the growing importance of a dialogue between the private and public sector on these complex issues that will help shape our future energy policy. While many of these issues are addressed in the context of developing a sound climate change policy, this is an arena that NACWA expects to see a dramatic growth in over the coming years.
NACWA has been at the forefront of efforts to advocate for the use of green infrastructure as one way to address the nation’s clean water challenges that result from wet weather. Green infrastructure includes vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, and rain barrels to capture or divert storm water that otherwise would go directly into the sewer system and uses nature’s own mechanisms for treatment.
Cities and communities nationwide need to repair, replace and rehabilitate their aging and failing pipes and plants and build new infrastructure to comply with increasingly complex regulations to protect public health and safeguard the environment. The funding gap between what is now being spent and what is needed for capital projects in our communities – and the potential consequences of further inaction – is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Simply stated, there is an unprecedented consensus that the nation's rivers, lakes and streams will face irreparable harm if we fail to act now.
Since the Clean Water Act was passed 35 years ago, clean water agencies have contributed significantly to improving the nation's water quality, but the incremental rate of improvement has slowed significantly. A watershed based approach to water quality is now needed to holistically consider all causes of water quality impairment and to restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of our nation's waters.
Today’s clean water agencies are increasingly looking beyond the four corners of the Clean Water Act to how they can improve environmental performance, benefit their communities and improve their financial picture. The Water Resources Utility of the Future (UOTF) is defined by today’s utility leaders pioneering innovative technologies and cutting-edge practices with a focus on resource recovery. NACWA is committed to making sure the array of UOTF issues – whether related to energy production, water reuse, green infrastructure or watershed-based approaches - are priorities with Congress, the Administration and other key stakeholders going forward.
Membership gives you access to the tools to keep you up to date on legislative, regulatory, legal and management initiatives.
- National Pretreatment & Pollution Prevention Workshop
May 15 - 17, 2013, Portland, OR
- Summer Conference & 43rd Annual Meeting
Managing & Financing the Resilient Clean Water Utility
July 14 – 17, 2013, Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza , Cincinnati, OH