The Water Environment Federation has developed a series of clean water policy and position statements to guide the critical work WEF provides in clean water policy.

The statements provide the public and clean water professionals with an understanding of how WEF approaches the work of ensuring the availability of clean water. Existing statements are regularly reviewed and updated through the leadership of the Government Affairs Committee, and new statements are developed as new topics arise in the clean water sector. WEF members contribute to the development and updating of these documents through collaborative efforts between various technical committees and the Government Affairs Committee.

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Position Statement Approved by the WEF Board of Trustees: March 27, 2019

WEF will advocate and promote the following priorities for the effective and efficient management of stormwater runoff in the built environment:

Read 'Stormwater Runoff in the United States Built Environment Position Statement'

Non-flushable and ‘flushable’ labelled products

International water industry position statement on non-flushable and ‘flushable’ labelled products

 Download the PDF

WEF Environmental Policy Statement

The Water Environment Federation is committed to fulfilling its mission to preserve and enhance the global water environment by reducing the environmental effects of its activities and helping others in the water sector to do the same. Members, volunteer leaders, partner organizations, and other associations in the water sector look to the federation as a leader that often serves as a model for others.

Water Quality

Policy Statement: Approved October 22, 1997 by the Board of Trustees

Protecting the world's surface water and ground water is essential for public health, wide diversity of biological communities, and quality of life. Water use must meet our present needs while ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Such sustainable usage of water, which is fundamental to prosperity and progress, requires protection of all natural resources from activities perilous to water quality. As water quality protection programs succeed in many parts of the world, global water quality is challenged by population growth, urbanization, industrial and commercial activities, agricultural practices, and other aspects of modern life.

The Water Environment Federation is committed to providing leadership and guidance in efforts to enhance and preserve the world water environment. The Water Environment Federation commitment to improving water quality based on sound principles of science, technology, and policy is summarized in the following points.

Watershed Planning and Management

The Water Environment Federation supports the watershed approach of protecting and restoring water quality. The watershed approach stems from the knowledge that all ecosystems are linked together. Watershed management is a method of decision making to protect and sustain all natural resources - uplands, wetlands, surface water, and ground water - affecting water quality within common, hydrologically defined geographic areas. The approach includes all citizens of a watershed in establishing priorities and developing plans for water protection in that region. Local government agencies, businesses, and residents in a watershed should participate in setting regional environmental priorities, aiming for the highest practicable degree of water quality improvement. Inclusion of concerned parties in a successful watershed program demands comprehensive public education on protecting and enhancing watersheds.

Priority Setting

The Water Environment Federation supports a priority setting process allowing governments and watershed managers enhanced flexibility in scheduling and standard-setting within the context of economic, technical, and social capabilities. A priority setting framework must support water quality managers in using appropriate data and tools, promoting inclusive resource protection, conducting economic and risk analyses, considering cross-media impacts, and accounting for regional growth. Water quality priorities and solutions must be established regionally to best address water quality impairment from local and outside sources. The general public should collaborate in priority setting with engineers, scientists, and other experts to ensure long-term support for and implementation of water quality programs. Priorities should be set to expand water recycling and to protect natural resources.

Improving Water Quality Through Sound Science

The Water Environment Federation supports the use of sound scientific information in all programs dedicated to solving complex water quality issues. The benefits of water quality protection are maximized when all components of such initiatives have a sound scientific basis and a clear rationale. New water resource efforts and restructured water quality initiatives should be supported by the most comprehensive and current scientific information and assessments. Goals, standards, and strategies should be evaluated regularly to incorporate the most recent scientific information and analyses. Scientific knowledge should be used to protect the environment and to develop a sustainable balance of natural resources. Water quality protection efforts must promote problem resolution and enhance pollution prevention.


The Water Environment Federation supports development and dissemination of both basic and applied research on water issues through financial assistance, program aid, practical field demonstrations, and publication of peer-reviewed research. Research is the foundation of scientific and technical knowledge on water quality and the global environment. New and expanded research efforts are essential to our understanding of water resources and of human stresses on them, to technological innovation, and to development of new cost-effective approaches to enhance water quality. Reliable data is necessary to meet the global demand for high-quality water. The results of research should be employed by all parties involved in water quality protection.

Financing to Meet Water Quality Needs

The Water Environment Federation supports equitable distribution of clean water costs among all parties benefiting from the resource, financial assistance for clean water programs, partnerships between government and the private sector, and government funding of water quality programs as a duty to all citizens. Financing methods should be innovative and free of burdensome regulation or onerous administrative requirements. Adequate funding for both watershed management and infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement is vital for sustained water quality. All elements of clean water efforts receiving funding must be sustainable and responsive to citizens and to the environment.

Effective Management and Infrastructure Sustainability

The Water Environment Federation supports effective management of facilities protecting water quality. The keys to good management and sustainable infrastructure include programs to further improve the skills of water quality professionals; funding for infrastructure improvements and for regulatory compliance and enforcement; pollution prevention; responsible management of residuals; public participation in decision making; and proper planning, construction and maintenance of water quality facilities to maximize long term efficiency and ensure water quality protection. Community and industrial water quality facilities also should consider adopting voluntary management standards to protect all water resources. The mission of the world water quality professionals is to provide the highest quality water while acting as a partner with and good neighbor to the public.


Position Statement - Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: December 2, 2011

WEF recognizes that biosolids, a natural byproduct of wastewater treatment, are a renewable resource that is too valuable to waste given our growing needs for renewable energy and sustainability. Thus, WEF endorses and encourages the innovative beneficial recycling and use of biosolids. This updated statement expands WEF’s prior position that had focused primarily on land application of biosolids in support of EPA regulations. Read more >>  

Renewable Energy Generation From Wastewater

Position Statement - Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: October 14, 2011  

WEF believes that wastewater treatment plants are not waste disposal facilities, but rather water resource recovery facilities that produce clean water, recover nutrients (such as phosphorus and nitrogen), and have the potential to reduce the nation's dependence upon fossil fuel through the production and use of renewable energy.  Read more >> 

Wastewater Systems Operations Professionals Certification and Training

Postion Statement - Adopted by the WEF Board of Trustees: May 7, 2011

WEF believes that wastewater systems operations professionals must adhere to the highest standards, especially with the new regulatory requirements and technologies now facing the industry. These professionals should be subject to mandatory State certification with a required minimum of applicable continuing education hours to maintain their certification license. The position statement also addresses funding, reciprocity and professional recognition. Read more>> 


Positon Statement: Adopted by the WEF Board of Trustees: June 16, 2010

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) supports the continued responsible use of chlorine-based disinfectants such as chlorine gas, calcium hypochlorite, and sodium hypochlorite, in addition to alternative disinfection methods, including ultraviolet (UV) radiation and ozonation. Wastewater disinfection requirements are site-specific, depending on treated wastewater characteristics, applicable water quality and disinfection standards, and treatment process configuration and constraints. Therefore, all current disinfection options should remain available to allow a comparative evaluation of scientific, environmental, engineering, and economic benefits at each site. WEF believes that a proposal to ban the use of any specific disinfectant, such as chlorine-based chemicals, is inappropriate unless justified through scientific studies. WEF will continue to support disinfection-related research, advances in technology, and improvements in current methods to enhance process effectiveness and efficiency, safety, and beneficial effects on human health and the environment.


Wastewater treatment facilities are designed to meet effluent standards established to protect the quality of receiving waters. These receiving waters may support a variety of beneficial uses, including habitat for aquatic species, contact and non-contact recreation, or potable water supply. Both the receiving water quality and the effectiveness of wastewater treatment processes are influenced by factors that are unique to each facility. Therefore, all disinfection processes should be evaluated relative to site-specific objectives and implemented, as necessary, to meet these objectives, while protecting the environment with minimal or no adverse impacts.

Disinfection is used to reduce the risk of water-borne disease transmission. Since 1976, the US EPA has encouraged site-specific evaluations to determine whether disinfection of wastewater effluents is necessary. Although disinfection is often beneficial, seasonal-only disinfection or no disinfection at all may be acceptable at sites where the use of the receiving water does not pose a hazard to public health or the environment.

Options for Disinfection

Historically, the most commonly and widely-used disinfectants have been chlorine-based chemicals. Chlorine disinfection has been identified as one of the top 10 advances in public health protection in the 20th century and has reliably and cost-effectively met bacteriological water quality standards. Overall, the public health benefits associated with chlorine disinfection far outweigh concerns regarding residual chlorine, chlorination byproducts (which can be mitigated through the use of a dechlorination process after disinfection), and/or public exposure to possible chlorine gas releases (either inadvertent or from terrorism-related incidents).

In addition to chlorine-based disinfectants, the use of alternative disinfection processes such as UV radiation and ozonation has been expanding. UV disinfection system installations have grown in both number and size over the past 20 years, due to the development of higher-efficiency UV lamps, improvements in reactor design and automation, and the absence of byproducts in the disinfected effluent. Interest in ozone disinfection has also increased due to advances in ozone generation systems and contactors, as well as its strong reactivity and potential to improve water quality. These alternatives provide additional options for effectively and efficiently meeting water quality objectives at wastewater treatment facilities.


Current disinfection practices have reduced risks to public health while cost-effectively meeting water quality objectives. Based on current knowledge, the known benefits of these disinfection practices far outweigh the known risks. Maintaining the availability of all disinfection alternatives, including the use of chlorine-based chemicals, allows facilities to effectively disinfect wastewater effluents while balancing scientific, environmental, engineering, and economic considerations.

The suitability of any disinfectant depends on site-specific factors, such as treated wastewater characteristics, process effectiveness and reliability, applicable water quality standards, current and anticipated uses of the receiving water, treatment process configuration and constraints, safety, and cost. As our understanding of any disinfection technology with respect to these factors will never be complete, WEF will support continued study and research to further enhance our knowledge.


Leong, L.Y.C.; Tang, C.C.; Kuo, J. Disinfection of Wastewater Effluent – Comparison of Alternative Technologies, Project 04-HHE-4; Water Environment Research Foundation: Alexandria, VA, 2008.

Management of Wet Weather Flows by Municipal Utilities

Position Statement: Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: April 30, 2010

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) supports environmentally sound and cost effective management of wet weather flows. The debate over the appropriate management and control of wet weather discharges has been going on for more than two decades. While there have been some successes during this time, most notably the negotiation of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control Policy adopted in 1994, the complexity of issues, both in terms of technology to address the diversity of flow and water quality scenarios and the use of the existing regulatory structure to address permitting all of the different types of discharges, have made further progress difficult. In addition, EPA has not provided national guidance for design and operation of sanitary sewer systems to promote the reduction of sanitary sewer overflows (SSO). In some instances, it is reported that EPA Regions have their own interpretation leading to confusion and potential conflict among discharging communities and within EPA.

This statement provides background on the issues and WEF’s position, which includes a proposal to work with EPA in the development of a definitive national strategy and related guidance on planning and permitting for wet weather flows.


The Clean Water Act (CWA) was developed almost 40 years ago. The issues of primary concern at that time are very different from the issues now facing municipalities. The sources most contributing to nonattainment of water quality now are diffuse and wet weather sources, not the traditional point sources of pollution, which were the concerns when the CWA was adopted. WEF has recently adopted a position statement encouraging modernization of the CWA to incorporate updated tools and policies necessary to assure continued water quality improvements.1

Discharges that result from rainfall and snowmelt (wet weather events) include not just storm water runoff, but system capacity overloads resulting in CSOs, SSOs, and peak wet weather flows that threaten the ability of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to function properly. Wet weather discharges are by nature intermittent, somewhat unpredictable, and not easily characterized in terms of treatment options. They are extremely variable from one wet weather event to the next with respect to frequency, duration, volume, season and sub-surface conditions. This unpredictability and variability presents a significant challenge to WWTPs in managing wet weather discharges; climate change may impact such unpredictability and variability even further. It also makes it difficult for EPA and authorized states to apply standard conditions for managing wet weather operations through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit process.

While the flows and conditions are highly variable, there are important commonalities among the types of wet weather discharges described in this statement. They are all triggered by rainfall or snowmelt. They involve discharges of various combinations of pathogens, floatable material, sediment and suspended solids, oxygen-demanding substances, and a host of conventional and toxic pollutants. In many cases the impacts on the environment may be more a result of flow rates and volume than the pollutants carried in the flow. Compared to industrial and dry-weather municipal discharges, they are difficult to predict, measure, and control.

The commonalities among wet weather discharges can be physical as well, in that pollution sources can be physically or hydraulically connected such that controlling one source can have impacts elsewhere in the collection system or stormwater drainage system, such as:

  • Sanitary and combined sewers are often interconnected; meaning that controls implemented in combined system can impact discharges in the separate system and vice versa.
  • Storm water runoff may be contaminated with sanitary sewage if there are illicit sanitary connections to storm sewers.
  • SSOs caused by infiltration and inflow into sanitary sewers are a major source of pollutants in localized areas.
  • Separation of combined sewers creates “new” sanitary sewers and storm sewers, changing, rather than eliminating pollutant contributions and adding to regulatory issues that must be addressed.
  • High groundwater can cause exceedence of storm, sanitary and combined sewer system capacities.
  • CSO Long Term Control Programs and SSO controls affect the flow and volume of peak wet weather flow sent to the treatment plant and the necessity, in many cases, to evaluate and utilize peak flow management at the treatment plant.
  • Wet weather programs involve similar activities during the planning stages—focused analysis of the conveyance system and its response to wet weather events, and evaluation of costs and benefits of different long term control measures—and during implementation activities such as permit issuance, compliance monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting.
  • In addition to traditional controls, wet weather programs can benefit from appropriate green infrastructure that focuses on infiltration, evapotranspiration, capture and reuse of stormwater to maintain or restore natural hydrologies. At the largest scale, the preservation and restoration of natural landscape features (such as forests, floodplains and wetlands) are critical components of green stormwater infrastructure. On a smaller scale, green infrastructure practices include rain gardens, porous pavements, green roofs, infiltration planters, trees and tree boxes, and rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing and landscape irrigation.

Recognizing that these commonalities could be addressed in a way that provides for greater efficiency, more comprehensive planning, and less redundancy among permitting requirements, over the past ten years EPA and other stakeholders have continued a dialogue about how municipal wet weather issues could be better integrated on a watershed basis.

WEF Position In order to assist municipal utilities and NPDES permitting authorities accomplish their missions in an economical and environmentally responsible manner, WEF believes that the EPA must develop a comprehensive strategy and provide practical guidance that allow municipalities to manage wet weather flows in a holistic manner. EPA’s strategy and guidance should be based upon the wet weather management principles and guidance practices described in the following management tools:

  • WEF’s “Guide to Managing Peak Wet Weather Flows in Municipal Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems”. Developed in 2006, the Guide was made possible by a Water Quality Cooperative Agreement between EPA and WEF. The Guide outlines an approach for analysis of wastewater flow collection and treatment during wet weather conditions, development of sound and effective practices for municipal facility planning, and design and operation for optimum management of wet weather flows. The Guide provides a risk-based method for WWTPs to be more proactive in planning for wet weather flows and describes a process that can be used to build support for real-world solutions that effectively use resources to improve water quality.
  • WEF/NACWA’s “Core Attributes of Effectively Managed Collection Systems”. In the absence of clear federal guidance, the Partner Organizations WEF and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) with technical reviews by the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) have developed these baseline attributes as fundamental elements in the effective management of sanitary sewer collection systems. These core attributes are intended to provide guidance for wastewater agency collection system managers to evaluate their existing programs and confirm they are performing in both dry and wet weather conditions according to industry-established best management practices, or have practices that are lacking and need enhancement.
  • Addressing wet weather discharges in a holistic manner following the Guide can provide for greater efficiency, more comprehensive planning, and less redundancy among permitting requirements. Non-traditional approaches may be required to address the challenges posed by wet weather discharges. Such challenges must be addressed on several fronts:
    • Ensuring that the existing framework of regulation and policy is fully implemented for those discharges covered by existing programs.
    • Adjusting the existing regulation and policy framework to reflect the difficult decisions municipalities face in controlling episodic, variable, and largely unpredictable wet weather sources.
    • For example, in many WWTPs, the plants are designed with additional capacity in the primary clarification units, or more recently with a peak flow treatment facility, to accommodate peak flows to the plant. When the plant flow to the secondary treatment facilities (which have almost always been biological units) is increased to the maximum capacity that retains biological stability, additional flow is routed to auxiliary treatment systems and then recombined with flows that have gone through the other treatment trains. This practice is referred to as “blending.” This long-accepted sound engineering practice has been followed at WWTPs around the country, but treated differently in the NPDES permitting process by EPA and the states over the years. Recently, the practice has been questioned, and the NPDES permitting practices have been changing in the Regions and states, with no clear guidance on how to permit or the standard for review.
    • Supporting flexible decision-making at the state and regional board level to achieve watershed objectives in the most cost-effective manner;
    • Establishing Water Quality as a leading parameter when requiring agencies to establish compliance measures; and
    • Providing flexibility and time to apply tools that focus on sustainable practices, green infrastructure and pollution prevention.

Given the many similarities and requirements among wet weather control programs, and the fact that these programs are all impacting WWTPs, recognition of these similarities should be addressed in a positive manner using the proposed framework described above within the existing NPDES program.

WEF would like to partner with EPA to develop a strategy and guidance for integration of municipal wet weather programs that will assist permitting authorities with design and implementation of permits to address the unique nature of wet weather discharges and the controls necessary to achieve water quality goals. The strategy and guidance will enable permitting authorities to utilize flexibility available in the NPDES permit program to focus on water quality goals. The strategy and guidance will also encourage urban areas to develop their wet weather programs in a comprehensive manner following the WEF Guide that organizes NPDES information and planning to help decision makers prioritize wet weather control programs.

Clean Water Act Modernization

Position Statement: Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: February 5, 2010        

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is the leading organization dedicated to the quality of our nation's waters. Through the work of WEF members and others, the Clean Water Act has been highly successful in helping achieve national clean water goals. Federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, have contributed enormous financial and technical resources toward solving water quality problems. We have witnessed a rebirth of countless lakes, streams, rivers, and coastal areas. High levels of wastewater treatment are the norm throughout the United States. Public awareness of, and support for, the value of clean water is extremely high. The United States enjoys one of the highest levels of water quality in the world.

The Clean Water Act is currently over 35 years old. The 1972 Act did result in many spectacular successes in redressing the harm that generations of population growth and industrial development had wreaked upon the nation’s waterways. However, in its current form, the Clean Water Act is unable to affect significant further advances, nationally, in water quality improvement. This is evidenced by a suite of recent assessments that indicate water quality improvement has plateaued in spite of the current level of public and private resources devoted to water quality and ongoing federal and state program delivery.

The following are some representative issues that now challenge this nation’s capability to achieve water quality goals:

  • Population growth over the next 35 years will increase the US population to over 400 million people.  This will increase pollution loads in treated effluents to 1972 levels or more.
  • Urban density will increase, particularly as people locate to minimize personal transportation costs.  This will place more pressure on urban stream corridors.
  • Climate change will alter precipitation patterns and cause more intense precipitation in some areas, increasing wet weather challenges.
  • Aging infrastructure strains the budgets of utility systems to repair and replace, and if not addressed before failure, poses threats to water quality and public health.
  • Wastewater treatment plants have spent billions improving their effluent quality and are bumping the technology ceiling to achieve further improvements.  Yet, unregulated non-point source pollution continues to degrade water bodies, particularly with nutrients, bacteria, and sediment, and accounts on its own for 40 percent of impaired waters nationally.  Intensified agricultural practices for both crops and animal production are of particular water quality concern.
  • Local taxpayers/utility customers are questioning ever-increasing fees required to address both aging infrastructure needs and advanced wastewater treatment limits.
  • State agencies, the first line of delivery of Clean Water Act programs, are unable to adequately administer mandated activities due to the massive gap in resources needed and provided.


WEF Position

The Water Environment Federation urges action for a national re-commitment to clean water.  The Clean Water Act must be updated to incorporate the tools and policies to assure that necessary water quality improvements will occur in all US waters.   The overarching principal for a revised Clean Water Act should be employment of a holistic approach to water quality management that integrates water quality and quantity and the benefits provided to the environment, community and economy. With this context, WEF recommends that the following components need to be codified:

Watershed Management – Require site-specific Watershed Management Plans where such plans are needed. Site-specific plans should serve as the adaptive management framework for the integration of the disparate programs and acknowledge and quantify pollutional inputs from all sources media (land, air, pesticide application, hazardous waste) and prevail upon the interfacing legislation (i.e. SDWA, FIFRA, Farm Bill, Clean Air Act, etc.) to focus their respective tools and programs on achieving the goals of the plan. Non point sources must be subject to regulation as needed to achieve water quality targets. Trading programs should be affirmatively recognized and provisions incorporated to encourage trading programs. Governance must be created as necessary, particularly for watersheds involving multiple political jurisdictions and states where none exists.

Achieving Sustainability – The Act should be revised to formally incorporate sustainability and embrace actions that move water management towards sustainable approaches, including provisions to encourage installation of green infrastructure, water reuse and conservation, energy recovery, and management of storm water as a resource. Further, as applicable, projects and programs should be required to assess associated lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions and triple bottom line (environmental, economic and social) benefits.

Research and Technologies – Water quality improvements cannot significantly occur without new and improved cost-effective technologies. Similar to European and Pacific Rim Governments, the United States must renew its commitment to facilitating research. The Act needs to be revised to strengthen support for public-private partnerships in technology development for the marketplace, with particular emphasis on centralized treatment and distributed systems, urban runoff and non point sources, pollution prevention and green infrastructure. Innovative approaches should be encouraged without fear of consequences should the technology not achieve emission compliance.

Water Quality Standards – Water quality standards are the foundation for all actions to improve water quality. They are subject to increasing scrutiny as technology controls give way to water quality-based point source controls and Total Maximum Daily Loads analyses and associated strategies. Water quality standards for many waters are out of date or inappropriate in terms of designated uses; for example, existing water quality standards do not adequately reflect wet weather or nutrient concerns. Thus, the Act should be revised to facilitate efficiencies in setting and revising standards, assure goals are attainable and embrace adaptive movement towards achieving established standards.

Climate Change – The implications of climate change to the nation’s efforts to improve water quality are significant. Effects on stream flows will, in turn, impact water quality status. Revisions to the Act should incorporate an integration of climate change impacts in water quality standards, monitoring programs, wet weather controls, reuse, receiving stream flows, facility planning and design.

Permitting and Enforcement – The Clean Water Act’s current provisions have created a burden on permitting agencies that are detracting from other more value added activities. Changes are needed that will both reduce administrative burden without compromising efficacy. For example, certain permits need not be renewed every 5 years and enforcement efforts are best focused on actions that will improve receiving water quality. Streamlining provisions are critical given the resources required.

Funding – It is well documented that the mandates of the Act are severely underfunded, to the extent it is a major limiting factor in the effectiveness of its mandated programs. The backlog of wastewater infrastructure needs is of the magnitude of $150 billion to $400 billion over the next 20 years. States, localities, and the private sector face increasing costs for nonpoint source controls and green infrastructure. Moreover, state agencies estimate current resources at or less than one-half of that needed to adequately administer Clean Water Act programs. It is an unavoidable observation that failure to dedicate resources is directly related to failures to improve water quality. A revised Act must renew federal support to funding levels adequate to assure meeting water quality goals.  Alternatively, the timeframe for accomplishing the Act’s goals should be adjusted to align with resources provided and/or program streamlining applied to reduce costs. Most importantly, funding is need in the State Revolving Funds and to support state agencies that are delegated the day-to-day responsibility for program implementation. [For more discussion on State Revolving Funds, see the WEF position statement: Financial Sustainability for Water Infrastructure].

Financial Sustainability for Water Infrastructure

Position Statement: Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: February 5, 2010

We have made good progress toward achieving national water quality and drinking water goals since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act. High levels of drinking water and wastewater treatment are the norm throughout the United States and we enjoy one of the highest levels of water quality in the world.

Despite this progress, impaired waters still persist. Recent assessments indicate that water quality improvements may have reached a plateau in spite of the current levels of investment by federal and state programs and by water and wastewater utilities According to 2006 to 2008 State assessments reported to EPA, 63% of assessed estuaries and 49% of assessed rivers and streams have impaired water quality due to a variety of sources, including inadequately treated wastewater.

One of the most critical issues facing Americans is how to improve and maintain our infrastructure to ensure that we fully enjoy the health, economic and social benefits that clean and safe water provide. Infrastructure problems associated with aging pipes, outdated treatment systems, and inadequate capacity to meet growing population demands are requiring many communities to make huge investments in upgrades to their water and wastewater infrastructure systems. In 2002, EPA estimated a potential gap for wastewater infrastructure capital improvements, along with operations and maintenance, of about $150 billion to $400 billion over the period from 2000 to 2019. EPA has also estimated that the nation’s water utilities will need to invest about $335 billion over the next 20 years on drinking water infrastructure. These amounts are beyond the capacity of some municipalities and utilities to shoulder alone. Without additional investment in the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure, the environmental and public health gains made during the last three decades could be at risk.

WEF Position

The Water Environment Federation supports a three-pronged approach to solve the financial sustainability of infrastructure challenge facing water sector utilities: First, utilities must be well managed and appropriately funded to ensure long-term sustainability of collection, treatment and distribution systems; second, there must be a significant and continuing federal investment commitment; and, third, the general public and business community must play a larger role in ensuring that utilities continue to effectively serve their communities.

Well-Managed Utilities

Utilities must be well managed locally to ensure long-term sustainability of collection, treatment and distribution systems: The first line of defense in providing Americans the benefits of clean and safe water is ensuring our local water and wastewater utilities are well maintained and operated with sufficient local support. Specifically, WEF supports:

  • Full cost-of-service pricing systems that encourage local communities to establish rates that reflect, to the maximum extent practicable, the system's true life-cycle costs, including debt service, and that can support long-term management needs. Full cost-of-service pricing also reflects the environmental and public health value of the water and wastewater services provided;
  • Strong professional staff that are viewed as advocates for clean and safe water in the community and on the state and federal level. Utilities must have employee development and training programs that ensure utility staff possess the skills needed to manage, operate and maintain the utility using best practices;
  • Water sector utilities should fully utilize the tools of the Effective Utility Management (EUM) program that establishes performance measures for excellence in utility management
  • Sustainable management approaches, including asset management and environmental management systems, that proactively ensure long term viability of each component of the system while simultaneously ensuring compliance with local, state and federal environmental regulations;
  • Long-term financial planning and structured resource prioritization to help ensure that utilities develop and allocate their available resources to most effectively deliver customer and environmental services;
  • A culture of constant innovation and research into new technologies and management approaches that support best management practices, including conservation, efficiency and reuse; and a system to ensure transparency and public participation so the utility remains accountable to ratepayers and the general public.

There must be a significant and continuing federal investment: WEF recognizes that even if local utilities do all the above and are managing their systems using best practices, federal assistance in financing infrastructure costs will continue to be essential for many communities due to affordability issues. Congress must make a significant renewed commitment to help communities and regional watershed partnerships meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Specifically, WEF supports:

Strengthening the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Programs (SRFs)

  • Reauthorization of the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Programs (SRF) with a significant increase in appropriations to more closely reflect financing needs that exist;
  • Improved administration of State Revolving Funds, that streamlines the application process, provides increased flexibility to States to determine, with public input, project eligibility and environmental compliance standards, and encourage innovative partnerships that bring diverse stakeholders together for more effective broad-based solutions; and reduces paperwork burdens on communities;
  • Flexible forms of financing, made available by states on the basis of need, to assist communities that do not have the rate base to support conventional or SRF loan financing costs. These include extended loan terms, low and negative interest loans, loan forgiveness programs and grants. Communities in need often include low-income communities and small communities or those facing costly environmental challenges such as correction of CSO and SSO problems or meeting new TMDL and security requirements. More comprehensive affordability criteria should be developed for states to use in allocating SRF financing;
  • A dedicated revenue source for the SRF could ensure that federal investment in water infrastructure is consistent and no longer solely depends on annual discretionary appropriations. .
  • WEF believes that any dedicated SRF revenue source identified should be broad-based, related to clean and safe water, and should not impose a national tax or fee on local water and wastewater ratepayers. WEF is willing to work with Congress and other stakeholders to bolster SRFs by considering dedicated revenue sources and innovative financing. One possible dedicated revenue source is a water trust fund. An example of an innovative financing approach is a water-specific infrastructure bank.

Support for State Programs, Small Communities, Research, Asset Management, and Public Education 

In addition to increased funding for the SRF, assuring infrastructure sustainability will require increased federal support for States to administer clean water programs, including federal support for watershed based approaches; federal support for technical assistance to small communities; increased federal investment for research and development of cost-effective treatment and infrastructure technologies and asset management strategies that improve the life-cycle of wastewater treatment systems; and federal support for the development of a national program to educate the public about the benefits and economic importance of water and wastewater infrastructure.
The general public and the business community must play a larger role in ensuring clean and safe water. WEF supports strategies that encourage greater participation by the general public and the business community in maintaining the healthy operation of community water and wastewater treatment facilities. WEF believes that to ensure long term environmental stewardship of our water resources, all parts of society must be involved. Specifically, WEF supports:

  • Public partnerships and cooperative relationships with the business community to develop innovative, cost-effective solutions to infrastructure sustainability. Public/private partnerships should not be restricted or hindered by tax laws, grant conditions or other federal requirements. Public-private partnership decisions should be made locally based on what local officials determine is most appropriate for preserving and enhancing the water environment;
  • Elected officials and non-governmental organizations, including public health organizations, advocacy groups, business associations and other civic organizations, playing a leadership role in highlighting the importance of water infrastructure and continued investment in it;
  • A continued commitment from WEF to continue public outreach among all stakeholders to increase the public's support for investment in infrastructure for clean, safe water.

WEF recognizes that no single solution addresses the full range of clean water infrastructure and related challenges. All levels of government and the private sector must share responsibility for effective, efficient, and fair solutions to protecting our nation's waters.

Climate Change: Protecting Water Resources and Infrastructure

Position Statement: Adopted by WEF Board of Trustees: February 5, 2010

No other resource is likely to be more affected by climate change than water, as precipitation patterns change, sea levels rise, and water quality degrades.

If global warming trends are not mitigated, significant disruption to the natural hydrological cycle will increasingly threaten the sustainability of our water supply. The nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is already in need of significant investment to maintain current levels of service over the coming decades. Climate change will stress the system further.

The Water Sector, by taking proactive steps to reduce its contribution to climate change, can be part of the solution. By embracing innovative techniques to reduce energy consumption, such as improved utilization of biogas or expanded biosolids recycling, the Water Sector can greatly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

WEF Position

The Water Environment Federation (WEF)[1] will work with all stakeholders to better understand the global implications of climate change on water resources, aid in mitigating future impacts, and adapt the nation’s infrastructure to meet supply challenges.

We call on all levels of government to work with water quality professionals and water, wastewater, stormwater and water resource utility managers to:

  1. Address major contributions to climate change by making the Water Sector more energy efficient and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions;
  2. Optimize reuse and recycling of biosolids, biogas and water;
  3. Plan innovative strategies and build “green infrastructure,” which is both adaptive to climatic changes and sustainable;
  4. Encourage adaptation by developing strategies to minimize environmental, economic, and public health risks that will result from climatic changes in the environment; and
  5. Create a global research network to identify the uncertainties in scientific knowledge and clarify probabilities of climate change.

Energy Efficiency and Reuse/Recycling for Sustainable Water Treatment

More than one percent of all the electricity generated in the United States is used for collecting and treating wastewater. It is through its use of energy that the Water Sector has its greatest opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby help mitigate a major source of climate change. Meeting the goals of sustainability, climate change mitigation, energy independence, energy efficiency, and affordability of services to the public make it imperative for the Water Sector to act to develop new initiatives and policies that include:

  • Encouraging water efficiency among residential and commercial properties, in industries, and throughout the water infrastructure network;
  • Encouraging full utilization of the energy products from the wastewater treatment process, such as biosolids and methane gases;
  • Recovering fertilizer value from biosolids;
  • Re-using and recycling water and wastewater treatment residuals and biosolids for uses beyond energy;
  • Reducing energy use and capacity needs by encouraging water conservation and keeping stormwater out of the collection and treatment systems;
  • Researching and developing innovative technologies that provide new energy sources or make existing processes more efficient, including cogeneration, hydropower, growing algae biomass, energy dissipaters, and new diffuser technologies;
  • Using reclaimed water for appropriate residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural purposes to conserve and extend freshwater supplies;
  • Using groundwater recharge as a solution for restoring aquifers and freshwater supplies. Groundwater recharge would help mitigate increasing salinity levels that will occur as a result of rising sea levels;
  • Participating in cap-and-trade initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Developing renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and organics/food waste digestion, at treatment facilities and pump stations.

Innovation: Implementing a 21st Century Approach to Water Management

Another key opportunity that the Water Sector has to mitigate the impacts of climate change is by pursuing state-of-the-art water management techniques and green infrastructure systems.

Such water management approaches include water recycling and reuse. Water managers have already begun to adapt water usage through source separation, a process in which different qualities of water are provided to consumers and different sources of contaminated water are collected and treated separately.

Green infrastructure is designed to alleviate the impact of storm water on traditional infrastructure and treatment systems by utilizing open and public spaces, wetlands, parks, rain gardens, trees, infiltration planters, green roofs, and porous paving materials to absorb storm water and prevent its runoff into fresh water supplies. Green infrastructure can help restore natural systems and processes that are critical to environmental health.

The benefits of using green infrastructure and technology to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on the water industry include:

  • generation of energy savings in construction and operation of systems (compared with traditional infrastructure);
  • creation of vegetative systems that remove greenhouse gases and other air pollutants from the atmosphere;
  • moderation of temperature changes through shading and evapotranspiration;
  • reduced use of concrete in infrastructure construction and maintenance, and;
  • decreased pumping and treatment costs

Adaptation Essential for Water Sector

Water resource managers must work to minimize economic, environmental, and public health risks by adapting systems and supplies to the projected effects of climate change.

A key adaptive approach is integrated water resource management, a systems approach to water resource planning and management which involves stakeholders and customers and helps anticipate and respond to uncertainties. For instance, drinking water providers are taking a watershed approach to protecting source water, improving water quality and availability for more efficient treatment facilities. New technologies, such as water reuse and recycling are being used to minimize freshwater use and demands on infrastructure. Additionally, some low-lying water utilities have designed floodwalls and new pumping regimes to adapt to projected sea level rise.

Water resource managers must also adapt to new information, consistently refining their approach to sustainability. They must continually incorporate locally relevant data into long-range planning and recognize that climate change is altering long-held beliefs about hydrological norms.

Adaptation approaches will in many cases require additional resources. Federal, state and local funding must continue to be directed to the Water Sector to adapt infrastructure and water supplies to climate change.

A Global Research Network

Information about impacts and probabilities of climate change on water resources is critical to decision-making within the Water Sector. We must work with Congress and other stakeholders to develop a global research network that:

  • supports access among water resource managers to available research;
  • strengthens locally relevant research with respect to water quality, aquatic ecosystems, groundwater, and socio-economic impacts; and
  • assists decision-making and planning within the Water Sector, given information that is limited and continually in flux.

Balancing Clean Water Act Requirements with Climate Change Realities

The Clean Water Act will necessarily evolve to balance new risks, costs, and benefits of climate change and sustainability.

Water resource managers must work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in developing a comprehensive review of its regulatory framework governing water resources. The Water Sector must encourage the EPA to consider the consequences of changing the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act with regard to carbon emissions. We must balance issues of compliance, quality water and wastewater service and full environmental protection with progress towards minimizing the impacts of climate change on our communities.

With climate change reduction goals in mind, Clean Water Act permitting programs may need to be more flexible to encourage adaptive management and sustainable practices and to consider the net environmental benefits of certain regulatory requirements. For example, treatment plant upgrades may not be sustainable if they require a tremendous amount of raw materials to construct, as well as extensive energy to operate. A more sustainable alternative reflecting all energy and environmental considerations might call for nonpoint source controls and use of best management practices in lieu of more stringent point source treatment.

Microconstituents in the Environment

Position Statement: Approved by the WEF Board of Trustees November 30, 2007

Modern science has produced innumerable products and medicines that have improved the quality and longevity of our lives and afforded many conveniences. Their production, use, and disposal have resulted in the presence of low levels of microconstituents in the environment. Microconstituents may be found in surface water, ground water, drinking water, domestic and industrial wastewater, agricultural runoff, reclaimed water, other waters, and biosolids. Many of these substances also may be found in soils and in the air. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) defines microconstituents as natural and manmade substances, including elements and inorganic and organic chemicals, detected within water and the environment for which continued assessment of the potential impact on human health and the environment is a prudent course of action. Frequently mentioned microconstituents include pharmaceutical and personal care products, pesticides, and industrial chemicals.

WEF advocates further research to better understand this evolving and complex issue. Potential future regulatory requirements to address microconstituents must be driven by sound scientific principles.

WEF is committed to advancing understanding of microconstituents in the water environment and supports continuing efforts to safeguard the public and the environment including monitoring, assessment, and prevention. WEF believes that information in this developing area should be shared broadly among all stakeholders.


Continuous improvements in analytical tools have enabled researchers to detect the presence of microconstituents in the environment at low levels. Federal agencies and academia should support further improvements in the accuracy and precision of microconstituent detection and quantification.

Local, state, and federal agencies should engage in cooperative monitoring efforts to better understand the presence of microconstituents. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) should provide funding for state and local agencies to support these efforts.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) should continue to focus resources on monitoring for and quantifying the presence of microconstituents in the water environment.


The assessment of risks to human health and the environment posed by exposure to any substance is fundamental to understanding and mitigating its potential impacts. Research efforts focused on the fate, transport, and effects of microconstituents on human health and in the environment, although just beginning, are critical to understanding this complex issue.

Federal agencies and academia should engage in cooperative efforts to accelerate research on the fate, transport, and potential effects of microconstituents on human health and the environment. Such research should be funded by USEPA, USGS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Screening level risk assessments based on preliminary information on presence, levels, fate, and effects should be developed and used to determine priorities for further research and possible safeguards.


Controlling microconstituents at their source is an option for limiting their release to the environment. Industry, agriculture, and the water and wastewater community should be active proponents of controlling microconstituents at their point of generation to prevent harmful impacts.

USEPA and FDA should work together to identify and address gaps in the existing regulatory framework for evaluating new substances prior to their production and use to insure that they do not present significant threats to public health and the environment.

Federal, state, and local agencies, working with manufacturers and water and wastewater professionals, should educate consumers on their role in reducing the release of microconstituents to the environment. Such programs should promote understanding of the proper methods for recycling or disposal of products and the consequences of improper use.

USEPA should fund research on the treatability of microconstituents in impacted media.

2007 Farm Bill Reauthorization

Position Statement: Approved by the WEF Board of Trustees December 12, 2006

The Water Environment Federation takes a keen interest in identifying and promoting opportunities within the agricultural community to support watershed-based management techniques that improve water quality. Watershed-based approaches to water quality challenges present unique opportunities for both point and non-point pollution sources to collaborate on projects that address our nation’s clean water needs. Water quality professionals, agricultural producers, and rural and urban communities share common interests as stewards of our water resources, including an interest in reducing pollutant loads and achieving water quality improvement in cost-effective ways. The 2007 Farm Bill affords an opportunity to continue making progress in implementing agricultural conservation best management practices that improve water quality, and provides an opportunity to foster greater collaboration between the municipal and agricultural communities.

As Congress considers re-authorization of agricultural support programs, the Water Environment Federation offers three primary strategies to achieve these goals:

  1. Strengthen and Target USDA Conservation Programs to Achieve Greater Water Quality Improvements in Critical Watersheds
  2. Foster Greater Collaboration and Partnerships between the Municipal Treatment Sector and Livestock Producers to Improve Manure Management
  3. Establish More Effective Mechanisms and Tools to Achieve Greater Nutrient Controls on Farms

Strengthen and Target Conservation Programs to Achieve Greater Water Quality Improvements in Critical Watersheds

The 2002 Farm Bill made important strides in establishing and strengthening agricultural support programs designed to improve on-farm conservation practices. These programs, including the Environment Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the Conservation Security Program (CSP), assist farmers in implementing on-farm practices to help achieve environmental benefits, such as water quality. Although evaluating the full environmental benefits directly attributable to these programs is difficult, there is evidence that focused conservation spending can produce results. For example, between 1982 and 2003, total soil erosion on U.S. cropland declined from 3.06 to 1.75 billion tons per year, a decline of 1.31 billion tons per year, or about 43 percent.1 Much of this decline can be attributed to conservation compliance, removing highly erodible land under the Conservation Reserve Program, and providing farmers with support under the EQIP program to improve on-farm soil management techniques.

While USDA conservation programs have assisted farmers in deploying conservation best management practices, demand for these programs out-strips available funding. According to USDA FY2005 data, there were nearly 50,000 unfunded conservation program applications representing $2.4 billion and 93% of these applications were for EQIP, Wetlands Reserve Program and for the Grasslands Reserve Program.2 Fiscal year 2003 data indicate that for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, only 30,251 applications for conservation programs were funded, while 174,062 applications were denied.3 Conservation funding must also be better targeted to areas of greatest water quality concern. Severe water quality problems due to agricultural pollution persist throughout the country. According to state water quality assessments compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, pollution due to agricultural run-off impacts 48% of impaired river miles and 41% of impaired lake acres (EPA, 2002). And, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay due to excess nutrients grow annually. A recent survey of agricultural producers found over 80% percent support for conservation programs targeted toward water quality improvements.4


  • Shift agricultural commodity funding to a system of green payments and conservation programs and support market-based revenue streams to substantially increase resources for on-farm conservation practices.
  • Reserve a significant portion of acres within the total CRP acreage cap for continuous sign-up and create an easement option within CRP to permanently retire the most sensitive lands.
  • Improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of agricultural conservation programs by targeting conservation projects to impaired watersheds in which impairments to waterbodies can be attributed to agricultural run-off.
  • Support the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) authorized under the 2002 Farm Bill to quantify the environmental benefits of conservation practices used by private landowners participating in selected conservation programs.

Foster Greater Collaboration between the Municipal Wastewater Sector and Livestock Producers to Improve Manure Management

Recent data show that over 70% percent of producers support increased financial and technical assistance to help manage animal wastes.5 The municipal wastewater treatment sector has developed effective and efficient systems to treat municipal and industrial wastes resulting in significant water quality gains since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Much of this technology expertise can be deployed by agricultural producers to help manage animal wastes. Confined animal feedlots, poultry growers and other livestock producers generate large quantities of manure that are often stored in on-site farm lagoons and spread as fertilizer on agricultural fields. Run-off from these operations contains high levels of nutrients that contribute to oxygen-depleting water quality problems such as hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Chesapeake Bay. The run-off also contains pathogens such as viruses, giardia and cryptosporidium, which pose dangerous public health concerns if humans come into contact with contaminated waters.

Model partnerships are developing whereby municipal agencies are providing waste treatment services to local livestock producers in an effort to deal with the challenge of manure management. For example, Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) is a wastewater treatment utility serving communities in the Chino River Basin in Southern California. In an effort to reduce excessive nutrient loadings to the Chino River Basin, IEUA partnered with 10 local dairy farmers to treat their cow manure (about 500 tons per day). With financing from the USDA, Department of Energy, and local ratepayers, IEUA installed and operates an anaerobic digester within a mile of the dairy farmers to process the manure, which produces methane gas and supplies power to IEUA and its customers (about 3 megawatts of electric power). In addition, IEUA hauls excess manure waste to a state of the art composting facility located at one of its waste treatment facilities. The manure is composted and turned into high quality biosolids,6 which provides fertilizer to local crop growers. The capital costs of this project exceeded $15 million and securing financing for it through USDA was a challenge due not only to its cost but also to the fact that as a local government agency, IEUA was ineligible for much of USDA program financing.

Wastewater treatment specialists also provide training and technical assistance to farmers to help them employ better on-farm manure management controls. For example, WEF members have provided training to farmers and manure management specialists, and WEF-sponsored specialty conferences on such topics as “Anaerobic Digestion as Applied to Animal Manure” and “Animal Residual Management, Policies and Alternative Technologies”, have attracted wide interest within the agricultural sector. These services could be expanded and offered as on-line instruction via the internet so that more farmers can participate.


  • Establish a funding mechanism whereby local wastewater treatment utilities and manure management service providers can access funding to install and operate manure management technologies and practices on livestock farms.
  • Eliminate barriers to regional and cooperative manure management and treatment projects between livestock producers and waste treatment service providers.
  • Remove the funding cap under a single EQIP contract for projects that involve installation of alternative manure management technologies that reduce adverse water quality impacts.
  • Support the formation of manure management districts whereby a cluster of livestock producers can establish manure treatment facilities serviced by third party wastewater treatment providers. 
  • Enhance the USDA’s Technical Service Provider Program by streamlining the program and making it cost-effective for private individuals and entities to deliver technical assistance. 
  • Support greater involvement by the wastewater treatment sector in delivering technical assistance to agricultural producers, developing best practice models of partnerships between the agricultural and wastewater treatment sectors, and sharing lessons learned.

Establish More Effective Tools to Achieve Greater Nutrient Controls on Farms

Excessive nutrient loadings from agricultural operations continue to present difficult water quality challenges in major watersheds throughout the country, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Great Lakes. Studies indicate that run-off from agricultural sources is often the greatest contributor to excessive nutrient loadings in these waterbodies. Nutrient loadings from agricultural sources are caused by leaching, volatilization and movement of soil enriched with fertilizer and manure for use on crops. Another potential for nutrient loading is run-off from on-farm manure storage. Currently, only livestock producers that are required to obtain NPDES permits under the Clean Water Act are required to develop comprehensive nutrient management plans. Historically, agricultural policy has relied on voluntary measures and funding incentives to encourage farmers to reduce nutrient run-off. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that more must be done if we are to make any progress toward cleaning up impaired watersheds such as the Chesapeake Bay, and reducing the threat of hypoxia.

Increasingly, market-oriented strategies, such as water quality trading, hold potential as sound policy approaches to reduce nutrient loads to water bodies. Water quality trading provides an opportunity for wastewater utilities and farmers to collaborate on solving nutrient control problems in an impaired watershed. Though not a cure-all, nutrient credit trading between point and non-point sources can be a viable and useful addition to watershed nutrient reduction strategies. Trading programs can contribute to farm income while at the same time reducing point source nutrient control costs. Successful trading programs could also supply additional ecosystem benefits beyond nutrient control, such as improved habitat and biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The 2007 Farm Bill can provide significant incentives to encourage the development of water quality trading programs.


  • Establish a water quality trading program that provides a mechanism for farmers to aggregate tradable credits on a watershed basis to sell in the market place. The program should include the following features:
    • Support for qualified public and private entities to become aggregators and brokers for tradable credits;
    • Financial and technical support to help farmers enter the market and defray transaction costs;
    • Criteria for tradable water quality credits and performance verification measures;
    • On-going research to provide best practice models and promote continual improvement; and,
    • A water quality trading advisory committee comprised of farmers, municipal wastewater treatment agencies, industrial dischargers, and others to serve as advisors on policy and program development issues;
  • Identify lessons learned from experiences with soil erosion reduction strategies to consider whether similar models can be used for on-farm nutrient reduction controls.
  • Strengthen conservation incentives for greater nutrient reduction control by targeting conservation resources and providing more technical assistance. 
  • Require development of nutrient reduction plans on environmentally sensitive lands for farmers receiving commodity and conservation support funding. 
  • Support more research in the fate and transport of nutrients, the role of various agricultural sources in nutrient run-off, and the effectiveness of conservation practices in controlling nutrient run-off.


The upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill provides important opportunities for continued progress toward improving the quality of our surface and ground water resources. Through strategies incorporating watershed-based approaches that promote collaborative partnerships between the agricultural and wastewater treatment sectors, greater efficiencies and greater water quality improvements can be achieved. The wastewater treatment sector has a long history of deploying successful treatment technologies that can be transferred to the farm. At the same time, the wastewater treatment sector has developed a great deal of expertise and knowledge that can be used to help farmers be good stewards of our water resources. Establishing mechanisms and reducing barriers that foster greater collaboration between the farming and wastewater treatment sectors can benefit water quality.


1 USDA-2007 Farm Bill Theme Papers, Conservation and the Environment, June 2006, page 13.
2 Ibid, page 19.
3 2007 Federal Farm Bill: Concepts for Conservation Reform in the Chesapeake Bay Region, Chesapeake Bay Commission, Figure 4, page 11.
4 The 2007 Farm Bill: U.S. Producer Preferences for Agricultural, Food, and Public Policy, National Public Policy Education Committee, Farm Foundation, September 2006, page 12.
5 Ibid, Farm Foundation Survey, page 13.
6 Biosolids – solid organic matter recovered from sewage and manure treatment process and used, esp. as fertilizer.

Federal Groundwater Legislation

Positon Statement: Approved December 1, 2000, by the WEF Board of Trustees

The Water Environment Federation believes that the responsibility for groundwater protection and research rests with national-level or federal governments. Groundwater is a highly valuable, finite resource that should be cared for by the highest level of government.

Federal legislation should be designed to assist states and regions as they carry out their groundwater protection programs, but such legislation should not preempt or control those programs. Federal groundwater protection legislation should include increased support for groundwater research and demonstration projects. Federal legislation should include increased support for information sharing, technology transfer, and training. New groundwater legislation should take into account existing legislation and policy for the control of point and non-point source pollution, without creating redundant, conflicting, or stricter regulation of these pollutant sources. In addition, any new legislation and policy controlling point and non-point source pollution should be crafted to adequately protect groundwater resources.

A single federal agency should have the lead role in coordinating groundwater research, demonstration, information sharing, and technology transfer programs at the federal level. The federal agency with the lead role in coordinating such programs at the federal level should report to the national or federal legislature on the programs made to improve knowledge of groundwater phenomena, as well as the progress that states, regions, and other federal agencies are making in protecting and improving groundwater quality. The existing authorities of all federal agencies with groundwater research assessment or protection responsibilities should not be reduced by federal or national legislation. The regulatory authorities of any federal or national agency should be increased only when absolutely necessary to protect vital groundwater resources.

The Water Environment Federation believes that federal and national governments should strive to protect and enhance groundwater as a crucial component of the world's water resources.

Water Reuse


Traditional water supplies in many parts of the world are becoming inadequate to sustainably meet the needs of communities. Population growth, development, droughts, over-drafting of groundwater, and climate change are straining water resources and altering the way communities plan for future demands and uses of water. There is a clear need to more effectively use water resources to provide reliable, high-quality, and affordable potable supplies to communities. Where limited water supplies are increasingly inadequate.

Read WEF's Water Reuse Position Statement

More WEF Advocacy Programs

WEF pursues many different advocacy and outreach through several programs aimed at various audiences. Explore these opportunties via the links below.