WWEMA Forum Tracks Trends in Market Recovery

Another WWEMA Washington Forum has just concluded, the 37th in a series of annual events covering the plethora of legislative, regulatory and economic issues impacting the market for water and wastewater products and services.

By Dawn Kristof Champney, WWEMA President

Another WWEMA Washington Forum has just concluded, the 37th in a series of annual events covering the plethora of legislative, regulatory and economic issues impacting the market for water and wastewater products and services. The theme of this year's event was Economics, Enforcement and the Water Environment: Tracking Trends in Market Recovery.

According to the trends presented by speakers from all sectors of the industry over the course of two days, the outlook looks promising for companies serving the water and wastewater industry, given the uptick in new water-related legislative proposals, tightening environmental regulations and a recovering economy. Here are the highlights from day one of this year's Washington Forum.

  • Rich Galen, a political strategist, predicts that each party will have a very small majority/minority after the November elections and will have to negotiate everything, offering an opportunity to move legislation forward in a less partisan environment.
  • Claudia Copeland from the Congressional Research Service stated that water and wastewater infrastructure funding has risen in prominence as a priority in Congress, as is a growing recognition of the energy-water nexus as a national security issue.
  • Jan Goodwin from EPA's Effluent Guidelines Program spoke of tightening treatment requirements for stormwater runoff from construction sites and airport deicing operations, as well as discharges from steam electric facilities and possibly coalbed methane and shale gas operations.
  • Cynthia Dougherty from EPA's Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water announced a new initiative to support development of drinking water treatment technologies and foster their export potential, "having the technologies lead us and not just follow where the regulations go."
  • Mark Pollins from EPA's Water Enforcement Division stated that his priorities are to get raw sewage out of water and keep confined animal feeding operations' waste from entering water sources, noting that EPA is open to letting permittees try new approaches for treating their wastes.
  • Ephraim King from EPA's Office of Science and Technology described the broad implications on future technology needs due to an array of new water criteria being developed by his office dealing with ammonia, atrazine, selenium, nutrients and conductivity, not to mention new rules governing cooling water intake structures; a petition to redefine secondary treatment; and identifying treatment technologies to remove endocrine disrupting compounds in water supplies.
  • Mike Tate of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Bureau of Water responded to the proposal to drop the current criteria for ammonia by 4 to 5 times, noting that biological processes do not always work to such lower permit limits and could force POTWs to seek performance guarantees from process system suppliers as a result.
  • Barbara Biggs from Denver Metro Wastewater Reclamation District noted that nutrients are the next big challenge with utilities all over the country facing the need to implement nutrient treatment. She postulated that over-regulation of clean water utilities can have unintended consequences, such as more reuse resulting in less instream flow.
  • Jacki Ponti-Lazaruk from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Water and Development Programs explained how $2.365 billion in ARRA funds will provide direct and guaranteed loans for 960 new water and waste projects, and how another $1.38 billion in Fiscal Year 2010 budget authority will result in an additional $3.26 billion in loans and grants being made available to rural communities.
  • Peter Shanaghan from EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) Program stated that the nearly $6 billion given by ARRA to the Clean Water and Drinking Water SRF programs resulted in $10 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure projects being funded in a 12-month period, with the majority (52%) going toward transmission and distribution systems (typically 36%), while treatment systems received 28% of the funds (typically 43%).
  • A panel session on alternative funding options focused on the prospects for new funding vehicles to meet future water and wastewater infrastructure needs.
  • Ken Kirk of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies spoke about a $10 billion-a-year federal clean water trust fund, sponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), with revenue coming from taxes on pharmaceuticals, beverages, a variety of household goods, as well as corporate profits.
  • Tom Curtis of the American Water Works Association described his organization's proposed federal water infrastructure bank, which could offer direct loans, loan guarantees and bond insurance to larger projects and to the state revolving loan programs at significant savings, equivalent to a 28% grant.
  • Bruce Morgan of Water Policy Associates discussed legislation moving through Congress to remove water and wastewater projects from under the state caps for private activity bonds, with the potential of generating up to $5 billion annually in new revenue for the industry at a nominal cost to the U.S. Treasury.

The presentations given on day two were equally informative and encouraging, addressing the outlook for the general economy and water and wastewater spending in particular; the types of technologies that will be in greatest demand in the future; and the prospects for M&A activity now that the market is beginning to show signs of renewal. Time will tell if their words of encouragement become reality. WWEMA will be there to report on it at its 102nd Annual Meeting on Nov. 11-13, 2010, in Tucson, AZ. WW


About the author: Dawn Kristof Champney is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, a 102-year-old national trade organization which represents the interests of companies that manufacture and supply technologies used in municipal and industrial water supply and wastewater treatment applications.

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