Obstacles & opportunities facing decentralized wastewater treatment
This is the last of three articles suggesting that decentralized wastewater treatment fulfill its potential when it is:
I have explored the insights of a new policy format and looked at a variety of demands for new infrastructure that are affordable and often capital forming. Here, I will explore obstacles and opportunities for reform.
To identify obstacles to leveraging reform it is essential to acknowledge the “holistic” (WEF) and “complex” (EPA) nature of the “new world of water” as well as the demand side economics necessary for an infrastructure for integrated water resource management. This new context where wastewater is a resource exposes the limits of single purpose, command and control institutions and their inability to address complexity.
These limits manifest themselves as “policy resistance” and it is “policy resistance” that is much the obstacle to releasing the potential in the watershed agenda.
Systems theory offers instructive insight into leveraging change. In complex systems theory:
Because the premise is that watershed and integrated water resource management are best served by a performance-based infrastructure it is arguable that the single purpose institutions that limit this perspective are among the most limiting factors in adaptive change. Among the most limiting and most resistant factors are the environmental health codes.
Successful release from the policy limitations of single purpose institutions can be measured by their response capacity of those institutions to the principles and aspirations inherent in the pressures for change.
With respect to the current Health, DEP and NPDES codes, one might ask do they address the emerging recognition that community and natural systems preservation properly structured are an essential foundation to a sustainable future.
The purpose here is that, they conform with the “origins of a watershed framework for conservation,” which factors include:
Will the factors resolve or inhibit those issues of primary concern to the public for which wastewater management is essential, such as:
The capacity to release the economic potential of the demand side is available in the Wisconsin Green Tier Program and the Massachusetts Environmental Results Permitting Program where command and control mandates are replaced with more efficient “command and covenant” environmental results. Green Tier is designed to:
In addition, there are a host of regulatory and legislative reform efforts across the country that include:
Decentralized wastewater treatment under environmental result permitting enables the practice of sustainable hydrology at the next transaction point. Additionally, it allows for the incremental installation of a modular performance-based distributed infrastructure and the contractually secure integration of economic reality and environmental protection.