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Increased investment & collaboration offer solution to water quality calamities
Like organizations and individuals across the nation, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) has watched with interest and concern as events in Toledo have unfolded. Recognizing that additional information will continue to inform the situation, NACWA believes this ongoing incident underscores the need for continued investment to ensure water quality and support for viable watershed-based solutions to deal with these complex water challenges.
The Clean Water Act provided the direction and resources necessary for the nation’s wastewater treatment agencies (also known as clean water agencies) to improve water quality across the country. While clean water agencies continue to work aggressively to enhance and improve water quality, it is acknowledged that in order to completely address the remaining water quality impairment, greater attention and resources must be focused on nonpoint sources of pollution resulting from storm water runoff from agricultural lands and urban areas.
“Early indications are that agricultural interests are committed to work with the utility community to solve this national problem, but it’s going to take time, money, and a growing understanding by Congress that we need more flexibility to craft watershed-based solutions. Toledo is not alone in facing this challenge,” said Julius Ciaccia, former NACWA president and executive director of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer Authority.
The recent passage, by Congress, of the Farm Bill, is to be commended as an important first step. In particular, the Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) facilitates partnerships between clean water utilities and agriculture to implement innovative nutrient management solutions. NACWA, along with leaders in the agricultural community, has supported this—and other efforts to deal with nutrient issues—by working collaboratively to address this challenge. Water quality trading and memorandums of understanding, like one NACWA will soon enter into with a federation of milk producers, offer other partnership approaches to enhance water quality.
“We need to have maximum flexibility to deal with these challenges and we look forward to working with all key partners to make this happen,” said Ken Kirk, executive director of NACWA.
“NACWA salutes the work of municipal officials in Toledo for their swift action to ensure that their citizens can continue to enjoy the quality water they deserve. This incident, however, must serve to spark an important national dialogue on the undeniable value of water and great need to effectively address the remaining challenges to our nation’s water quality,” said Karen Pallansch, NACWA president and CEO of Alexandria Renew Enterprises.