Water Quantity/Water Quality Nexus
The arid west and the southeast regions of the U.S. face unique water quality and quantity challenges. These challenges are predicted to intensify with the changing climate, increasing demands over water supplies, and a growing concern over degradation of water quality and heightened regulatory requirements.
Among NACWA’s highest priorities is to ensure that these challenges can be addressed effectively through the Association’s national policy agenda, and through a more focused collaboration with existing organizations that are also dedicated to these issues at the local, state, regional, and national level.
In 2018, EPA announced a new effort to prioritize water recycling and reuse and began developing the framework for a national Water Reuse Action Plan. Although water recycling and reuse is traditionally a state issue, EPA’s efforts are to better integrate federal policy and leverage existing expertise to ensure reuse is part of integrated water resources management.
NACWA submitted comments to EPA in February 2019 and partnered with other national water sector associations on a joint effort to gather stakeholder input on seven key areas including potable water reuse, on-site non-potable water systems, industrial water reuse, agriculture water reuse, environmental restoration, stormwater capture, and oil and gas. The joint water sector comments were submitted for EPA in July 2019 to consider as it drafts its Water Reuse Action Plan due out in September.
NACWA is in the beginning stages of a peer-to-peer collaboration with EPA’s Office of Watershed Management, EPA Regions 6 and 9, and the North American Development Bank on ways to assist U.S.-Mexico border utilities. Several NACWA members have risen to the occasion and are working towards helping utilities in Mexico with operator training initiatives, asset management, infrastructure needs, and public education and outreach. NACWA member utilities along the US border with Mexico are encouraged to get involved in this effort.
NACWA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the WateReuse Association in an effort to expand cooperation and work more closely on water reuse and water recycling. Leveraging the WateReuse Association’s technical expertise, this agreement will help NACWA’s unique advocacy efforts in supporting and encouraging resource recovery and water reuse. NACWA and WateReuse will coordinate on federal funding, research, regulations, and federal statutes – as well as engagement in knowledge-sharing, learning opportunities, and collaboration between members and staff.
NACWA developed a Concept Paper along with the Western Coalition of Arid States (WESTCAS) after holding roundtable discussions with a range of stakeholder interests in the southwest. It became clear that many of the water quality and quantity challenges extend well beyond the arid west borders, and thus demand a greater national focus.
NACWA is also engaging on emerging challenges regarding salinity issues. Across the country, there is a growing, national trend in freshwater salinization from road salt application, water reuse, desalination, water softeners, and high natural background levels. NACWA submitted comments to EPA on their 2018 proposed rulemaking on conductivity and continues to meet with EPA staff to discuss how this growing trend is impacting the municipal clean water community.
NACWA’s advocacy around water quantity/water quality issues is focused on critical topics such as climate change and resiliency, water reuse/recycling, regulatory improvement and Clean Water Act reform, affordability and financing, the Utility of the Future concept, and the water quality-water quantity nexus.
In order to tackle some of these issues, NACWA has convened the Arid State and Water Quantity workgroup which focuses current and emerging arid state and water quantity topics—and subsequent solution-oriented strategies—as vital national advocacy priorities.
For those interested in joining the Arid State and Water Quantity workgroup, or learning more, contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’S Director, Regulatory Affairs.