News Feature | January 24, 2014

EPA's 5-Year Plan Gets Mixed Reactions From Water Industry

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Industry interests and advocacy groups are sounding off on the EPA's plans for the next five years. 

The agency released its strategic plan for 2014 to 2018, and asked stakeholders to file comments. The input, documented in 25,003 submissions, has been mixed. 

The Association for Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) pushed for more clarity on how the EPA will carry out its goals. 

"AMWA is, in general, interested in knowing more about how the EPA is implementing Priority Action 6 – development of initial screening criteria to identify coastal water and wastewater facilities that may be at risk of inundation due to storm surge. AMWA urges EPA to work with utilities via water sector associations for feedback on the draft screening criteria and any follow-up activities considered," the organization said in its comment.

Another association of water utilities, the Western Urban Water Coalition, recommended that the plan "put an emphasis on better coordination in federal decision-making as a way to streamline procedures and improve efficiency."

The group registered some concerns about government efforts to take on climate change.

"We recommend that the first changes in many programs should be changes in knowledge and awareness, rather than in the issuance of new or more burdensome regulations," it said. 

The National Rural Water Association spoke up about the unique attributes of small water utilities. 

"Small and rural communities often have a difficult time, due to their limited customer base, providing safe water and compliance with federal standards. This is compounded by the fact that small and rural communities often have lower median household incomes and higher water rates compared to larger communities. As a result, the cost of compliance is often dramatically higher per household," the group said.

With that in mind, the group recommended that the EPA allow "local governments to have the most economically and environmentally progressive compliance options available under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act."

Not everyone is thrilled with the agency's long-term planning. 

The agenda is "heavy on high-flying rhetoric but light on pragmatics," according to comments filed by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). 

The comment period on this document has closed.

As Water Online previous reported, water policy is prominent on the agency's list of goals.

"Despite considerable progress, America's waters remain imperiled. Water quality protection programs face complex challenges, from nutrient loadings and stormwater runoff to invasive species and drinking water contaminants. These challenges demand both traditional and innovative strategies," the agency said in its statement of priorities. 

For more about the government's influence on the water sector, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "EPA," © 2011, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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