EPA’s Office of Water convened a small group of clean water and drinking water utility leaders to brainstorm and discuss options for more robust Peer-to-Peer (P2P) learning and networking among water sector utilities. During the meetings, NACWA and its members received high praise for the Association’s current P2P efforts to expand this much-needed tool for utilities.
The group identified two types of utilities, those that are 1) “networked” and well connected to the issues, that regularly attend conferences, and can pinpoint utility leaders to contact for assistance if need be, and 2) those that are “non-networked,” which usually encounter regulatory compliance issues, have a shortage of local political will in addressing budget shortfalls, and often face difficulties connecting with other utilities for help. The overarching goal of P2P is to help elevate the “non-networking” utilities up to the same or similar level of activity as those “networked” utilities, which will ultimately benefit and advance environmental and public health protections for all communities.
A real challenge to P2P is determining how the network will take shape. The group identified three tracks or methods to overcoming networking obstacles. The first track would utilize the variety of existing P2P network structures and develop methods for more efficient matchmaking between willing utility providers and willing utility takers. The second track creates a national initiative or a “50-state model” where the national associations and EPA could provide support and help connect utilities to other utilities. The last track, which ideally is incorporated into either of the first two, focuses on engaging community leaders and decision-makers (e.g., mayors) with utility leaders. These tracks are not necessarily mutually exclusive of each other, and could evolve as a larger framework takes shape.
NACWA will stay engaged with EPA and other key stakeholders as these important discussions continue, and will also be launching a Utility Executive Peer-to-Peer Network next month. Stay tuned for more details!