March 2008, Vol. 20, No.3

Briefs

Guidebook to Help Water Utilities Improve Energy Management

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its water and wastewater partners are learning more and doing more to confront serious challenges related to rising energy costs. A new guidance, Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Guidebook for Wastewater and Water Utilities, will help utilities systematically assess their current energy costs and practices, set measurable performance improvement goals, and monitor and measure their progress over time.

Steadily rising energy costs and associated environmental effects have made energy use one of the most pressing challenges facing water utilities, states a press release from EPA. Energy management is also at the heart of efforts across the industry to ensure that water and wastewater systems are operated in a sustainable way.

The guidance follows the successful Plan–Do–Check–Act methodology embodied in environmental management systems and other utility management tools, according to EPA. It was developed with the help of utilities that are successfully confronting their own energy challenges using this approach. It will serve as a step-by-step guide to help utilities systematically manage their energy programs over time.

For an electronic copy of the handbook, see www.epa.gov/waterinfrastructure/bettermanagement_energy.html.

EPA Reports on Clean Water Infrastructure Needs

A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates $202.5 billion is the nationwide capital investment needed to control wastewater pollution for up to a 20-year period. Delivered to Congress in early January, the 2004 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey summarizes the results of the agency’s 14th national survey on the needs of publicly owned wastewater treatment works, according to an EPA news release. The estimate includes $134.4 billion for wastewater treatment and collection systems, $54.8 billion for combined sewer overflow corrections, and $9.0 billion for stormwater management.

Communities across the country face challenges in sustaining their water infrastructure, the press release notes. EPA is working with states, tribes, utilities, and other partners to reduce the demand on infrastructure through improved asset management, improved technology, water efficiency, and watershed-based decision making, and is working with Congress to enact the Administration’s Water Enterprise Bond proposal.

The report provides information to help the nation make informed decisions about pollution control needs necessary to meet the environmental and human health objectives of the Clean Water Act, according to the agency. The figures represent documented wastewater investment needs, but do not account for expected investment and revenues. Wastewater treatment utilities pay for infrastructure using revenue from rates charged to customers and may finance large projects using loans or bonds. State and federal funding programs, such as EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program, are also available to help communities meet their wastewater pollution control needs.

The needs in this survey represent a $16.1 billion (8.6%) increase (in constant 2004 dollars) over the 2000 report. The increase in overall national needs is due to a combination of population growth, more protective water quality standards, and aging infrastructure, EPA notes.

For more information about the needs survey, go to www.epa.gov/cwns.

D.C. Puts the LID on Stormwater

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced an agreement with the District of Columbia to implement major green infrastructure enhancements to protect the Potomac and Anacostia rivers from stormwater runoff.

In modifications to a Clean Water Act permit, the district agreed to undertake innovative measures to stem stormwater flow and pollution, using natural systems such as trees, green roofs, and vegetated buffers, according to an EPA news release.

“This is the most advanced set of green infrastructure controls for urban stormwater that we have seen in the Mid-Atlantic Region,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh, according to the news release. “The District’s commitment to employ sustainable, and measurable solutions for wet weather pollution demonstrates leadership for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

Highlights of the new measures include

  • planting and maintaining at least 13,500 additional trees;
  • devising a low-impact development (LID) plan, which will include converting paved areas, such as median strips and large sidewalks, into green space;
  • creating a tax incentive plan for the installation of green roofs;
  • requiring all new district-owned buildings and, where feasible, all major renovations of district-owned buildings to include green roofs;
  • implementing enhanced street sweeping and trash removal programs; and
  • installing 50 rain gardens and 125 rain barrels.

The enhancements to the stormwater controls and management practices were outlined by the district government in a letter to EPA Region 3 on Nov. 27. These improvements are being incorporated into a municipal stormwater permit being renewed for the city by EPA.

For additional information, see www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/npdes/dcms4.htm 

U.S. EPA Widens Window on Regulatory Process

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released information about ways the public can get involved in environmental regulation.

The agency has added new features to one of its most popular Web sites for environmental regulatory information, according to an EPA news release. This site — titled “Laws, Regulations, Guidance and Dockets” — is often the public’s first exposure to EPA’s regulatory activities. Its user-friendliness has been enhanced with easily accessible ways to search and comment on EPA regulations and significant guidance documents, and to learn how environmental regulations are written, the agency says. The site also includes new sections for finding regulations and related documents, plus regulatory history, statutory authority, supporting analyses, compliance information, and guidance for implementation. Also, for the first time, according to EPA, searches for regulatory information can be conducted by environmental topic, such as water or air, or by business sector, such as transportation or construction.

The new site is accessible from EPA’s home page (www.epa.gov) and can be found by choosing “Laws, Regulations, Guidance & Dockets” from the left-hand navigation bar. See the new site at www.epa.gov/lawsregs.  

LID Practices Offer Reduced Costs, U.S. EPA Says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new report, Reducing Stormwater Costs Through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and Practices, which contains 17 case studies from across North America that show the economic viability of LID practices. Using these practices in construction projects can lower costs while improving environmental results, according to EPA.

The report highlights examples that, in most cases, reduce project costs while improving environmental performance. Total capital savings, the report notes, ranged from 15% to 80%, with a few exceptions in which LID project costs were higher than conventional stormwater management costs. As LID practices become more common, it is likely that they will become cheaper to use, the report says. The report is available at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/lid/costs07.