According to US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Draft FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, Public Review Draft released on 2 October 2017, the Agency is returning to its core mission, restoring power to the states through cooperative federalism and refocusing on its statutory legal obligations. The strategic plan moves EPA into a role of supporting states and tribes and is triggering a more localised approach in the way environmental and water policy is being delivered.
<strong>Sally Gutierrez,</strong> a water regulatory and policy specialist from Cincinnati, Ohio and <strong>Barry Liner of Water Environment Federation (WEF) </strong>share their perspectives with Paul O’Callaghan, chief executive of BlueTech Research
Regulations and enforcement of regulations are the key factors that drive and influence the adoption of water technologies. The regulatory environment signals potential markets and gives vendors advance notice of the potential size of the market for particular technology areas and indicates which players will be affected.
So it is not surprising that Sally Gutierrez and Barry Liner, WEF’s Chief Technical Officer and director of WEF think-tank, the Water Science & Engineering Centre, hosted one of the most popular roundtables at BlueTech Forum in Dublin in 2017. They are back with their roundtable on Regulations and Policy at BlueTech Forum 2018, which takes place 6-7 June in Vancouver, Canada.
Reflecting on the Dublin event, Sally Gutierrez says, “There is lot of interest in the policy landscape, which may be driven by the fact that we had and still have a fairly new government administration. There has been a lot of talk about regulatory and policy changes.”
Barry Liner adds, “Delegates were interested in nutrient permitting and the difference between point-source and non-point-source nutrient control. In the US there are upcoming regulation and implementation strategies on the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from surface water bodies and maximum daily load in rivers, watersheds and bays; the industry needs to know how that might impact the technology.
“Those attending our roundtable wanted to know how tight the limits might be for wastewater facilities and how that might impact the equipment technology markets. Another hot topic was water reuse and how the EPA is handling regulations on potable reuse and how that affects the technology market, not necessarily from the compliance side for the utility, but from the investor perspective.”
Looking forward, Gutierrez and Liner say there are several issues on the horizon in the US market including a number unregulated contaminants that need addressing urgently, including perfluorinated compounds and the presence of lead in drinking water.
“Since the public health emergency in Flint, Michigan, lead in drinking water has been the subject of much interest” says Gutierrez. “One of the interesting things going on in communities – around water systems – is that they’re looking at ways to mitigate some of these contaminants even where there haven’t been any firm and fast regulations.
“The issues go far beyond the regulations,” she says. “For example, current compliance strategies dictate measurement for the presence of lead in the distribution system, but not necessarily every single household that may have lead service lines in their actual home.”
Legionella is another very serious public health concern, say Gutierrez and Liner. It is a potential cause of illness and even death among susceptible populations and currently the US does not have regulations. There are a number of research studies underway on the topic.
“What you see though is water systems and solutions providers trying to address the problem even though it’s not within the regulatory construct and may not be for 10 years or more,” says Gutierrez.”
Gutierrez believes where action is required on issues not covered by federal legislation, more action is going to take place at state and community level and sometimes without the full backing of the federal government. This variation will create a complex landscape for vendors to navigate.
“Investors and technologists will move into markets where you do have these requirements in place. It has happened in California with water reuse and efficiency and much activity there is now due to the state taking decisions. California is leading on this state-led, individualised approach.”
Barry Liner agrees and says that where California leads, others follow are likely to follow. “People often think the US is one place when it’s really 50 states – the leadership of some of these states will bring others along.”
Liner points out that New Jersey has just passed legislation on the requirement for asset management – which is based on an approach rather than a technology. He says a number of other states are looking at that legislation to see whether they might model something on the NJ action.
“It took NJ jumping out there for the other ones to move and I think those are important examples of how the states are leading the way, not necessarily the federal government.”
Regulations are important drivers in the development and adoption of water technology. Liner gives the example of the multi-agency clean-up of Chesapeake Bay, the world’s largest estuary, in the 1980s and 1990s. The EPA had to work with six states and the District of Colombia to eliminate dead zones in this great surface water body.
“One important aspect of the Chesapeake Bay clean-up was nutrient removal in wastewater treatment facilities – and that required a lot of investment in research and development. People said there was no way we could do it. Now we know that the R&D led to advances in biological nutrient removal and enhanced nutrient removal in an order of magnitude better than anyone had predicted.
Liner continues, “We’re seeing a lot of the new technologies grow up all over the world that evolved from the biological treatment research boom that started with the regulatory demands to clean up surface water, such as the effort in Chesapeake Bay over the past 20-30 years. Examples include granular activated sludge technologies like Annamox and Nereda from the Netherlands.”
Alongside potable reuse, nutrient removal, legionella and lead in household pipes, Barry Liner also expects to see major growth in green infrastructure to manage stormwater. However, the journey from initial research to full implementation of new regulation can take decades and where climate change is hastening environmental change, federal action may not be fast enough.
“Communities are taking the lead because climate change impacts are at a local level,” Liner says. “We’re seeing a lot more advances occurring that are not reliant on federal government action. In Miami and South Florida they’re well ahead, they’re not debating any of the climate science because the sea level is rising on them and they’ve got to take care of it.”
Sally Gutierrez and Barry Liner are hosting the roundtable on Regulations and Policy at BlueTech Forum 2018 and both value the event as an opportunity to connect with a wide network of industry players and learn more about the technology landscape.
Gutierrez says, “BlueTech have a very good sense of what is out there, what is emerging and what is not happening as well. Every time I go to BlueTech Forum, I really learn so much about the overall innovation landscape.
“I get to meet players there that I don’t ever get to see in other venues, which is always fantastic because it gives a diversity of perspectives that I don’t otherwise get. It’s always based on very relevant topics that advance the thinking and the collaboration among all the players. It is just one of the very important meetings that goes on in the water community.”
BlueTech Forum takes place on 6-7 June 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. Sally Gutierrez and Barry Liner host the roundtable on Regulations and Policy. For more information, visit <a href=”http://www.bluetechforum.com”>www.bluetechforum.com</a>