An Expert Look at the CWA

Posted August 15, 2012
 

This week I had the pleasure to serve on a panel of distinguished Clean Water Act experts at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) to discuss “The CWA’s Next 40 Years: Achieving the Statute’s Goals -- and Results for All Americans.” The discussion was moderated by Ron Poltak, Co-Chair, ACWA Funding Task Force & Executive Director, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.  My co-panelists were LaJuana Wilcher, Partner, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, G. Tracy Mehan, Principal, Drinking Water & Water Quality Group, Cadmus Group, Inc., and Ken Kirk, Executive Director, National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

 

Ron Poltak kicked off the discussion by noting that, while the Clean Water Act has contributed to great progress since 1972,  the present-day law, which was last updated in 1987, is stale, slowing additional progress, and can only accomplish what it was designed to do –‘change will occur as slow as we allow it to’. LaJuana Wilcher articulated the need to reexamine the goals and expectations of the Act (zero discharge would be putting distilled water in our rivers), and the need to realize that our method of calculating compliance with water quality standards (WQS) is flawed resulting in inaccurate 305b reports and 303d lists; she emphasized that we keep spinning our wheels and hammering point sources even though no progress is being made on non-point source pollution. The holistic, symphonic watershed approach was advocated as well as the need to make sound, science-based decisions using accurate data and wise investments of limited resources; there also needs to be a public health/water quality cost-benefit analysis performed for all mandates to determine priority. If a particular measure/mandate achieves little to no benefit, it should be reevaluated periodically and delayed indefinitely until there is a satisfactory environmental return on investment.

 

Other notable observations from panelists included the challenges associated with the sustainability of the CWA and the lack of funding sources to address CWA requirements.  Time, flexibility and prioritization must be considered in light of available resources. 

 

There was productive disagreement about the need to move forward with CWA reform and congressional action in the near-term.  Tracy expressed concern about attempting to put anything in front of Congress because of the potential for unintended consequences of reopening the Act.  There was general consensus that while any real discussion about a path forward will need to wait until after the election, Congress cannot continue to delay the inevitable need to modernize the CWA.  To accomplish this lofty task will require engagement of all key stakeholders including NGOs and agriculture with the goal of reaching some consensus on a path forward to present to Congress.  Then the timing must be right to approach Congress – as LaJuana noted “it is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In the meantime, we must continue to find the greatest amount of flexibility in the Act and utilize the full suite of tools to better achieve water quality improvement at the lowest cost and to address nonpoint source pollution. EPAs’ recently released Integrated Planning Framework is considered a great first step and should be used as a model for finding further flexibility in the existing CWA.

 

To read WEF’s 2010 Position Statement on Clean Water Act Modernization, go to: http://www.wef.org/GovernmentAffairs/PolicyPositionStatement/CWAModernization/ 

 

Clean Water Act issues will be a hot topic at WEFTEC 2012 in New Orleans.   Make plans now to attend the WEF Government Affairs Committee meeting on Sunday, September 30, and the Clean Water Policy Session on Tuesday, October 2.  Details are available at: www.weftec.org 

 08/15/2012Permanent link

An Expert Look at the CWA  ()
 

Posted August 15, 2012
 

This week I had the pleasure to serve on a panel of distinguished Clean Water Act experts at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) to discuss “The CWA’s Next 40 Years: Achieving the Statute’s Goals -- and Results for All Americans.”

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An Expert Look at the CWA

 Permanent link

An Expert Look at the CWA

Posted August 15, 2012
 

This week I had the pleasure to serve on a panel of distinguished Clean Water Act experts at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) to discuss “The CWA’s Next 40 Years: Achieving the Statute’s Goals -- and Results for All Americans.” The discussion was moderated by Ron Poltak, Co-Chair, ACWA Funding Task Force & Executive Director, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.  My co-panelists were LaJuana Wilcher, Partner, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, G. Tracy Mehan, Principal, Drinking Water & Water Quality Group, Cadmus Group, Inc., and Ken Kirk, Executive Director, National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

 

Ron Poltak kicked off the discussion by noting that, while the Clean Water Act has contributed to great progress since 1972,  the present-day law, which was last updated in 1987, is stale, slowing additional progress, and can only accomplish what it was designed to do –‘change will occur as slow as we allow it to’. LaJuana Wilcher articulated the need to reexamine the goals and expectations of the Act (zero discharge would be putting distilled water in our rivers), and the need to realize that our method of calculating compliance with water quality standards (WQS) is flawed resulting in inaccurate 305b reports and 303d lists; she emphasized that we keep spinning our wheels and hammering point sources even though no progress is being made on non-point source pollution. The holistic, symphonic watershed approach was advocated as well as the need to make sound, science-based decisions using accurate data and wise investments of limited resources; there also needs to be a public health/water quality cost-benefit analysis performed for all mandates to determine priority. If a particular measure/mandate achieves little to no benefit, it should be reevaluated periodically and delayed indefinitely until there is a satisfactory environmental return on investment.

 

Other notable observations from panelists included the challenges associated with the sustainability of the CWA and the lack of funding sources to address CWA requirements.  Time, flexibility and prioritization must be considered in light of available resources. 

 

There was productive disagreement about the need to move forward with CWA reform and congressional action in the near-term.  Tracy expressed concern about attempting to put anything in front of Congress because of the potential for unintended consequences of reopening the Act.  There was general consensus that while any real discussion about a path forward will need to wait until after the election, Congress cannot continue to delay the inevitable need to modernize the CWA.  To accomplish this lofty task will require engagement of all key stakeholders including NGOs and agriculture with the goal of reaching some consensus on a path forward to present to Congress.  Then the timing must be right to approach Congress – as LaJuana noted “it is a marathon, not a sprint.”

In the meantime, we must continue to find the greatest amount of flexibility in the Act and utilize the full suite of tools to better achieve water quality improvement at the lowest cost and to address nonpoint source pollution. EPAs’ recently released Integrated Planning Framework is considered a great first step and should be used as a model for finding further flexibility in the existing CWA.

 

To read WEF’s 2010 Position Statement on Clean Water Act Modernization, go to: http://www.wef.org/GovernmentAffairs/PolicyPositionStatement/CWAModernization/ 

 

Clean Water Act issues will be a hot topic at WEFTEC 2012 in New Orleans.   Make plans now to attend the WEF Government Affairs Committee meeting on Sunday, September 30, and the Clean Water Policy Session on Tuesday, October 2.  Details are available at: www.weftec.org 

Posted by Jon Byus at 08/15/2012 10:40:23 AM | 


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Amanda Waters is Government Affairs Counsel for the Water Environment Federation, where she plays a key role in advocating the organization’s public policy positions and building member involvement in the development of key water laws and regulations. .