EPA Water Program Looks Ahead to FY 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Water Program has released a draft version of it’s 2008 program priorities and strategies for meeting the environmental goals established in the new EPA Strategic Plan.

by James Laughlin

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Water Program has released a draft version of it’s 2008 program priorities and strategies for meeting the environmental goals established in the new EPA Strategic Plan. Priorities include a focus on sustainable infrastructure, meeting drinking water standards, and improved watershed management.

EPA’s Office of Water listed sustainable water infrastructure as it’s top priority. To that end, EPA said it will give special attention to the “effective operation” of the State Revolving Funds. In early March, the US House voted to increase spending on the Clean Water SRF program, authorizing expenditures of up to $14 billion for the next four years. At this writing the Senate had not acted on the measure.

EPA said it will encourage practices that reduce the cost of water infrastructure and the adoption of proven management approaches, including environmental management systems and asset management. This effort will include work to enhance the market for water efficient products, encourage adoption of pricing structures that recover full cost of service, and promoting a watershed approach as an integral part of infrastructure decision-making.

For many years the EPA had a stated goal of achieving 95 percent compliance with drinking water standards. While compliance steadily grew for decades, in recent years it has begun to slip backwards. Today, the percentage of the population served by community water systems that are in compliance with health-based standards has declined to just under 90 percent.

Part of that decline could be linked to the struggle many water systems face complying with new - and tougher -- regulatory requirements. EPA said in 2008 it will “redouble” efforts to maintain compliance by promptly addressing cases of noncompliance. The agency also wants to improve the quality of data used to measure compliance, and will pay special attention to reporting under the Lead and Copper Rule.

EPA’s National Water Program is already working toward a goal of restoring the health of aquatic systems on a waterbody and watershed basis. In FY 2008, EPA plans to give priority to implementing key national programs supporting this goal. Activities include implementing TMDLs, encouraging water quality trading and targeting section 319 nonpoint pollution control funds to develop and implement watershed plans to help restore impaired waters.

To help with that goal, EPA will work with states to implement monitoring strategies developed over the past several years, including participation in a statistically valid assessment of the nation’s lakes and rivers. EPA also wants to improve state reporting systems, since that data is critical to measuring progress toward water quality goals.

Water system security and emergency response will continue to remain a priority for the 2008 fiscal year. EPA said it will work with partners to improve security and preparedness at drinking water and wastewater water facilities. As part of that process, the agency will move ahead with its Water Security Initiative and hopes to complete deployment of the first pilot in FY 2008.

The National Water Program’s Draft Guidance for FY2008 is available for review at http://www.epa.gov/ocfopage/npmguidance/index.htm.

James Laughlin, Editor

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