News Briefs

Jan. 22, 2015
News from around the nation.

Massive $1.1-Trillion Spending Bill Passed; Water Funding to Remain Steady

In mid-December, President Obama signed a $1.1-trillion omnibus appropriations bill into law, which will provide much-needed funding to help the U.S. government continue to operate through the end of September 2015.

The U.S. House passed the 1,600-page bipartisan bill with a final vote of 219 to 206, and the Senate also approved the measure with a final vote of 56 to 40.

The legislation primarily calls for national spending to remain the same as FY-2014 levels, with some downsizing to banking regulations.

It will allocate $2.35 billion for critical state revolving fund (SRF) programs, with $907 million set aside for drinking water SRFs and $1.45 billion allotted for clean water SRFs.

The new spending proposal will also include trade-restrictive "American Iron and Steel" language pertaining to these SRFs, which are identical to that seen in the 2014 appropriations bill.

The FY-2015 bill will also allow clean water law exceptions for agricultural waste, prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Moreover, the law will require the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their interpretive rule issued last March, which sought to clarify CWA, Section-404 permit exemption applications for agricultural operations.

MWRD to Offer 'Green Bonds' to Fund Environmentally-Friendly Projects

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has announced that it will offer a tax-exempt "green bond" offering to investors to fund environmentally-friendly infrastructure projects.

Green Bonds were started in 2008 by the World Bank and are dedicated to financing environmentally-related projects. Global rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poors (S&P) assigned AAA ratings for MWRD's upcoming bond sale and affirmed AAA ratings on all of its outstanding bond issues. The agencies completed a ratings review at MWRD's request.

MWRD has received the AAA rating from Fitch for thirteen consecutive years and S&P for eight consecutive years. The Green Bonds are part of a $297-million bond sale that began on Monday, Dec. 15. The purpose of labeling the Series A, B and C Bonds as Green Bonds is to allow interested parties to invest directly in these environmentally-beneficial projects.

For the benefit of investors, MWRD has defined four categories of its Green Projects: Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, stormwater management program projects, resource recovery projects, and water reclamation plant expansions and system improvements.

LADPW Credentials 100 Sustainability Professionals

The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) recently announced that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in California has become the first government agency in the nation to credential 100 of its personnel as Envision™ Sustainability Professionals (ENV SPs).

Following the successful completion of ISI's Envision training and exam, the new ENV SPs, mostly civil engineers, are now able to implement sustainability ideas and practices and document accomplishments in projects in conformance with the Envision rating system.

The Department's commitment was recently recognized when its Sun Valley Watershed Multi-Benefit Project achieved an Envision Platinum Award from ISI -- the highest level attainable in the Envision system.

The Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system provides a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community or social, environmental and economic benefits of all types of infrastructure projects and measures sustainability through five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Natural World, Resource Allocation, and Climate and Risk.

Reclamation Seeks Proposals for Water Research Program Funding

In an effort to improve water treatment technologies aimed at increasing water management flexibility through new usable water supplies in the U.S., the Bureau of Reclamation is seeking proposals within two funding opportunities: the first for research and laboratory studies and the second for pilot projects.

Reclamation will make a total of up to $1.4 million available for the funding opportunities. Research and laboratory studies may request up to $150,000, and pilot projects may request up to $400,000.

Applicants are required to provide at least a 50-percent cost-share utilizing non-federal dollars. Institutions of higher education are not required to provide a cost-share for research and laboratory studies, but it is encouraged.

The Desalination and Water Purification Research Program is helping Reclamation and its partners confront widening imbalances between supply and demand in basins throughout the West through testing and development of new advanced water treatment technologies.

Eligible applicants include individuals, institutions of higher education, commercial or industrial organizations, private entities, public entities, and Indian Tribal Governments. Applications are due on Monday, Feb. 16, at 4 p.m., MST.

EPA Advances Affordability Framework for Municipal CWA Requirements

On Monday, Nov. 24, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a "Financial Capability Assessment Framework for Municipal Clean Water Act Requirements," which was the result of nearly two years of discussions with representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), National League of Cities (NLC) and National Association of Counties (NACo).

The local government organizations requested these discussions due to the growing concern that costly water and wastewater mandates were dramatically impacting low and fixed income residents. USCM, NLC and NACo thanked EPA for working collaboratively to outline a new Financial Capability Framework. The groups welcomed it as a good first step in bringing national water quality goals and local resource constraints in better balance.

The Framework "identifies the key elements EPA uses in working with permittees to evaluate how their financial capability should influence schedules … and provides examples of additional information that may help some communities provide a ‘more accurate and complete picture' of their financial capability," according to EPA.

Implementing the new policy in the field is the next challenge, and the organizations are committed to working with EPA to accomplish this.

'Leading Demand Index' Provides Insight Into Municipal Water Market, Funding Conditions

In an effort to provide manufacturers and their representatives with helpful information, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) has partnered with Janney Montgomery Scott, a full-service financial services firm, to produce the "Water and Wastewater Equipment Market Analysis Report."

The quarterly report includes the newly created WWEMA/Janney Leading Index, formulated to provide insight into the market and funding conditions related to municipal water and wastewater projects.

Covering the third quarter of 2014, the first report generally pointed to increased demand and funding in the very near-term, with flattening demand over time. Graphs and charts relating to six data-driven factors also depict data and trends dating back as far as 2005.

These factors, which helped develop the index and analysis, include: municipal bond issuance; municipal financial health/pensions; water and wastewater utility employment figures; water infrastructure equity performance; residential building permits; and ductile iron pipe pricing. The full report is available exclusively to WWEMA members. For information on WWEMA and membership, visit

NGOs Pledge to Support Urban Waters Federal Partnership

A broad coalition of 27 national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Conservation Fund, have all pledged to support the Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP) as it works to restore waterways and revitalize communities across the country.

The NGOs will align resources, funding and expertise with federal efforts to restore urban waters and parks, increase outdoor recreation and engage residents and youth. The announcement came as federal agencies and NGOs convened in Washington, D.C., to share best practices on restoring urban waterways.

Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance economic, educational, recreational, and social opportunities in nearby communities. Reconnecting residents to their local urban waters helps communities to actively participate in restoring urban waters while improving their neighborhoods.

The UWFP is made up of 13 federal agencies working to reconnect urban communities with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts. The partnership is led by the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

USGS Releases Data-Driven Website on California Drought

As part of the federal government's Open Water Data Initiative, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a new website providing a unique and interactive visualization of the California drought that aims to provide the public with atlas-like, statewide coverage of the water shortage and a timeline of its impacts on water resources.

The visualization page features high-tech graphics that illustrate the effect of drought on regional reservoir storage from 2011 to 2014. Drought data is integrated through space and time with maps and plots of storage, and reservoir levels can be seen to respond to seasonal drivers in each year; however, available water decreases overall as the drought persists.

The connection between snowpack and reservoir levels is also displayed interactively. Current streamflow collected at USGS gaging stations is graphed relative to historic averages. Additionally, California's water use profile is summarized.

White House open data policies continue to provide opportunities for innovation at the nexus between water resource management and information technology. The Open Water Data Initiative promotes these goals with an initial objective of presenting valuable water data in a more user-friendly, easily-accessible format.

Wastewater as a Resource Further Examined Under WERF Research

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) has announced that it is expanding its research with three new projects that examine wastewater as a resource. Two of the projects seek to show that materials in wastewater can be commoditized, and the third one explores a new method to reduce phosphorus in wastewater.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will explore the "Production of Bioisoprene from Wastewater." The research team will convert biomass from wastewater treatment facilities into isoprene, as well as renewable biofuel (methane) using an engineered microbe.

Greeley and Hansen is also conducting research on "A Multi-Platform Approach to Recovering High Value Carbon Products from Wastestreams." This study will develop technological and economic platforms for the conversion of organic carbon compounds to commercially attractive chemicals and commodities. The research team will consider generation of substrates for biodiesel production, precursors to biodegradable plastics, and alternative vehicle fuels from water resource recovery facilities.

Finally, Northeastern University will investigate a promising new sidestream enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) process. This pioneering research, titled "Investigate the Mechanism for Optimization and Design of Sidestream EBPR Process as a Sustainable Approach for Achieving Stable and Efficient Phosphorus Removal," could help transform our understanding and ability to protect and preserve water resources in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

More WaterWorld Current Issue Articles
More WaterWorld Archives Issue Articles

Sponsored Recommendations

ArmorBlock 5000: Boost Automation Efficiency

April 25, 2024
Discover the transformative benefits of leveraging a scalable On-Machine I/O to improve flexibility, enhance reliability and streamline operations.

Rising Cyber Threats and the Impact on Risk and Resiliency Operations

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

State of Smart Manufacturing Report Series

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

SmartSights WIN-911 Alarm Notification Software Enables Faster Response

March 15, 2024
Alarm notification software enables faster response for customers, keeping production on track