AWWA ACE09: Money Matters and Taste

Cynthia Dougherty, director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water at EPA, said she expects that the Obama Administration's agency will make decisions based on science and rule of law using a transparent process that, once the decision is made, will move more quickly to action.

But first, the administration must get its water office positions filled.

Dougherty and Pete S. Silva, who is Obama's nominee for assistant administrator for water, spoke at the American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition this week. Silva has appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and is awaiting confirmation.

Commenting on the need for infrastructure repair and replacement funding, Dougherty explained that more than $1.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money has been obligated to 32 states as of Friday. She also clarified that those obligated funds "must be in contract or under construction by Feb. 17, 2010, or states can lose the money and it would be re-allotted to other states." Projects bid before signing of the law can be refinanced with ARRA funding, she added.

The agency has released its latest Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey, estimating that $335 billion will be needed for capital investment over the next 20 years, with 60 percent of the funds needed for transmission and distribution and 22 percent for treatment. Dougherty noted that these needs were "not driven by compliance but by the need to supply potable water."

Tommy Holmes, AWWA legislative director, noted that Congress is considering legislation that may provide additional sources of funding, such as the Water Infrastructure Financing Act, which would offer about $14.7 billion over five years and favor entities that had enhanced asset management and long-term financial plans. AWWA's Water Utility Council recommends the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2009, but Holmes noted that the "bill doesn't contain everything we'd like to see." The Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act of 2009 (HR 537) would remove annual caps on private activity bonds for water infrastructure projects. Holmes said he was hopeful that legislators sought AWWA input on many of these measures.

The Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water is working on a number of projects, including:

  • developing Web-based training for technical assistance and engaging other federal agencies and universities to best address the operator workforce issue;
  • reviewing the Contaminant Candidate List 3 for publication this fall with final regulations expected in July 2013;
  • coordinating with other agencies to revise drug disposal guidelines;
  • providing case studies, cost information, and violations data to the Nutrient Innovations Task Force; and
  • creating tools for emergency response, consequence analysis and risk assessment.

Water Taste Test

The Macon Water Authority won AWWA's "Best of the Best" Water Taste Test on Tuesday afternoon at the conference over 19 other entries.

Macon Water Authority provides municipal water for the city of Macon and Bibb County areas in Georgia. Its water distribution system is supplied by the Ocmulgee River, and has approximately 1,425 miles of water mains and service lines serving approximately 54,000 metered customers.

Second place in the competition was awarded to Silverdale Water District of Washington. The Lakeway Municipal Utility of Texas earned third place.

A three-person judging panel rated each water system on flavor characteristics. Judges included Stephen Booth of Kennedy/Jenks and chair of the AWWA's Taste and Odor Committee; Monique Durand, engineer at Hazen and Sawyer, P.C and member of the Taste and Odor Committee; and Mel Suffet, professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA and former chair of the Taste and Odor Committee.

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