Water Experts Offer Solutions in Conference Report

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University have released a full conference report from the Considering the Clean Water Act conference in Racine, Wis., last October.

Hosted by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, 30 water experts from across the nation met and discussed key issues preventing the achievement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) goals first established nearly 40 years ago.

“As we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, I have both pride in our accomplishments under the Clean Water Act but also frustration with ongoing challenges that may not be addressed well under the current law,” said WEF President Paul Freedman. “Despite being landmark legislation in the 1970s that led to significant achievements, the Clean Water Act is now a 20th Century tool trying to address 21st Century problems. As a nation, we must re-examine how to better address water quality issues to meet our current and future needs,” he said.

Conference participants began by recognizing past successes of the CWA as well as the shortcomings and limitations of the existing law, followed by a focused discussion on viable potential solutions and key considerations in moving forward.  Some ideas that emerged from this event included market-based solutions such as water pollution trading, adopting a more targeted and holistic watershed approach, implementing a new generation of technology-based controls for both point and nonpoint sources, utilizing integrated water management, reasonable assurance for nonpoint source implementation, and the need for adequate funding.  

The workshop concluded with the broad identification of four reform options, including:

  • updating the CWA to improve existing tools;
  • expanding the CWA beyond traditional applications;
  • updating other relevant statutory mechanisms to better address water quality; and
  • creating new legal or regulatory tools to target nonpoint sources or integrated watershed restoration and management.

The conference report will also be available as part of a new online discussion forum announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For a two-week period, EPA is seeking public input on how the nation can better manage some of its most significant water pollution problems. This feedback will help shape the discussion at the agency’s upcoming conference in April — Coming Together for Clean Water — where they will engage approximately 100 executive and local level water leaders on the agency’s clean water agenda.

EPA is seeking input from water professionals, advocates, and anyone interested in water quality issues about best solutions — from planning, scientific tools, low-impact development, to green infrastructure and beyond — in controlling water pollution and how resources can be better focused to improve these efforts. To join the discussion, visit http://blog.epa.gov/waterforum/. For more information about the CWA, visit http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/lcwa.html.

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