APWA President Bob Freudenthal

Providing a voice for clean water

Bob Freudenthal
APWA President

Clean water is critical to the well-being of our communities and the environment. Viable water resources provide the basis for an exceptional quality of life, thriving ecosystems, agricultural prominence and economic prosperity. Today, citizens of the United States and Canada can turn on the tap and drink clean, fresh water or flush the toilet without giving it a second thought. For this, we owe a great deal of gratitude to all members that work every day to conserve this essential resource.

Yet our ability to continue providing high-quality water resources is diminishing because of the enormous financial pressure on water supply and wastewater treatment systems. Critical to the continued success in the United States is the implementation and administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. To be sure, success will be achieved only if there is increased investment in infrastructure so that our water systems can address those contaminants that are of real health and environmental concern. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the funding gap between projected need and current spending for clean water and drinking water infrastructure in the United States over the next twenty years is $267 billion. This gap will continue to make our job that much more difficult.

Increased federal scrutiny and more restrictions on the quality of discharges to the nation's streams and rivers have water and wastewater utility managers struggling to keep up. In addition to the financial hurdles facing those of us that work in the water and wastewater sector, we must also be flexible and able to react quickly and efficiently to new rules or changes to existing rules issued by EPA. Prime examples of this are the new arsenic rule for drinking water and the recently announced guidance on peak weather flows. The new arsenic rule significantly lowers the longstanding arsenic standard from 50 ppb to 10 ppb and is expected to be one of the most costly rules ever issued. Similarly, EPA's proposed guidance on the wastewater treatment practice of blending is likely to result in costly plant upgrades to comply with the new requirements that further strain the resources of water systems to serve their communities, protect public health and protect the environment.

Our members are also in the throes of implementing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase I and II programs in communities across the United States. Just like in the water and wastewater programs, local governments are facing increasing regulatory demands to fund these requirements without any assistance from either the state or federal level. Many local governments have developed unique means of financing these obligations. However, these dedicated folks are now facing new challenges with the looming Total Maximum Daily Load requirements and anti-degradation rules that will increase the ability for them to meet the funding requirements.

APWA will continue to provide a voice on the national and state levels on these critical issues. In addition, we will provide educational opportunities so all in public works will be aware of these regulatory requirements and will be equipped to meet the challenges. We will continue to work with the other associations that are involved with water resources issues and will work to strengthen these important relationships.

Together, we can help shape public policy that will ensure that our water resources are protected and our citizens can afford clean water to drink.