Dec 07, 2007

On the Green Path

As we take a look back at 2007, I think it won’t be a stretch to say that this year will go down as the green year—and 2008 promises to follow the same path.

Coming on the heels of “out of sight, out of mind” tendencies, regulations in the last decade have mainly focused on water treatment and public health issues because these issues remained front and center in the public eye.

In 2007, however, diminishing clean water supplies, rising energy costs and a current focus on source water contamination and changing climate patterns have set the stage for much stricter rules on energy and water conservation. And while for many years these have been treated as global issues, in 2007, they have proven to hit hard at home as well.

For example, Georgia has been battling water shortages and is now beginning to enact strict water usage measures that have been long overdue.

And then there is Colorado: Persistent drought and increased demand have brought the Colorado River flow to a historic low, affecting several western states and the millions of people who depend on that water.

With continuing population growth, shrinking water supplies and recognition of the impact of climate change, it won’t be a surprise if other areas in the U.S. begin to experience the same crisis.

As a result, the water and wastewater industry has seen an increase in legislative action in 2007. In March, the House of Representatives passed the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007, which reauthorizes $125 million in grants for pilot projects for alternative water source projects.

In June, the House of Representatives and the Senate Committee passed the More Water, More Energy and Less Waste Act of 2007, which authorizes $1 million to carry out a study on ways to reduce “produced water” used in the production of energy resources and ways to increase produced water that is created for irrigation and other purposes. The act also authorizes $7.5 million in grants to develop facilities, technologies and processes to achieve these objectives.

Later this year, the Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act was referred to the House Committee on Science and Technology. The act establishes a research and development program to promote water use efficiency and conservation, including: technologies and processes that enable the collection, treatment and reuse of rainwater and greywater; water storage and distribution systems; and behavioral, social and economic barriers to achieving greater water use efficiency.

Even if not all acts are approved, the consideration of these bills is a good sign for the future of the green trend. I am confident that it won’t be long before emerging energy and water efficiency regulations force utilities to take specific actions to enable effective, sustainable and integrated water and wastewater management programs.

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