Joel Beauvais

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EPA is Ready to Launch New Water Finance Program

By Joel Beauvais

There’s a lot of discussion right now about the need to reinvest in America’s infrastructure, and there’s no question that our aging water infrastructure needs to be at the top of the list. EPA’s surveys of communities across the country show that the U.S. needs about $660 billion in investments for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure over the next 20 years.  This infrastructure is critical to the protection of public health and the environment, and to the functioning of every aspect of our national economy.  As a country, we need to invest more in modernizing this infrastructure, we need to make our dollars work smarter and harder, and we need to do it in a way that supports all communities across the country.

Many people don’t know that EPA plays a central role in supporting water infrastructure development in large and small communities nationwide.  We administer the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs which, life-to-date, have supported over$151 billion in low-interest loans and other critical support for water infrastructure. FY 2016 alone accounted for $9.5 billion of such support. We also provide millions of dollars each year in training, technical assistance and direct support for small communities and communities in need.  In 2015, we set up a Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Finance Center, that serves as a “think-and-do” tank to spur innovation in water infrastructure finance and support communities in need.

Now, we’re getting ready to implement an innovative new program that could provide billions of additional dollars to support water infrastructure investment across the country.  The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 created a new federal loan and guarantee program at EPA to accelerate investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. It was designed after the proven and highly successful TIFIA infrastructure loan program at the US Department of Transportation. WIFIA authorizes EPA to provide long-term, low-cost rate loans, at U.S. Treasury rates, for up to 49 percent of eligible project costs for projects that will cost at least $20 million for large communities and $5 million for small communities (population of 25,000 or less).  WIFIA is structured to work hand-in-hand with the State Revolving Funds – giving states and prospective borrowers the opportunity to decide which program is best to support a given project, or whether both together should do so.  The President’s FY17 Budget Proposal called for a $20 million investment in this program, which – because of the innovative way in which it’s structured – would be expected to support nearly $1 billion in loans for new water projects.

Over the past two years, EPA has been working hard to lay the foundations for this new program, so that we’re ready to implement it when Congress appropriates funding. We’ve made significant progress.  We’ve brought on new staff with the expertise and background to run the program effectively. This week we’re taking another big step, by issuing two rules to provide the administrative structure for the program.  The WIFIA Implementation Rule outlines the WIFIA program’s administrative framework, including the eligibility requirements, application process, project priorities and federal requirements for borrowers. It also explains the criteria EPA will use to select among project applicants, as well as EPA’s key priorities in this program, including adaptation to extreme weather and climate change, enhanced energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and repair rehabilitation, and replacement of aging infrastructure and conveyance systems.

The second rule we’re announcing today proposes fees to reimburse the agency for the cost of retaining financial, engineering and legal expertise needed to administer the program and underwrite loans effectively.  Congress provided for these fees when it enacted WIFIA, and this rule will ensure the program can be run sustainably. Next, we’ll publish a “Borrower’s Handbook” to help prospective borrowers determine whether WIFIA loans are the right choice for their projects and better understand the application process and program requirements.

WIFIA has the potential to substantially expand available federal funding for water infrastructure, and we at EPA are excited about this new opportunity.  This is about supporting our communities and the safe drinking water and clean water services upon which our public health and economic vitality depends.  We’re ready to get this program off the ground and begin providing low-cost loans for regionally and nationally significant projects.

For more information about the WIFIA program, visit www.epa.gov/wifia or contact WIFIA@EPA.GOV.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Examining Options to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week marks a time when EPA and our federal partners promote education and awareness activities that focus on lead and how to prevent its negative health effects.  This year, we focus on the theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future.”  It’s through our joint efforts that we have been able to make significant strides in reducing exposure to lead over the past several decades.

Data show that from 1976 – 1980 the median blood lead level of a child (1-5 years old) was 15 micrograms per deciliter.  Those levels have been dramatically reduced since then, to 1 microgram per deciliter, based on the most recent data. These major improvements were made over the past several decades by removing lead from toys and lead solder in cans, taking lead out of gasoline, reducing exposure to lead in paint and dust in homes and during renovations, greatly reducing the allowable content of lead in plumbing materials in homes and other buildings, and further reducing lead in drinking water through the federal Lead and Copper Rule. Although we have taken significant steps to protect our children from the detrimental effects of lead poisoning, there’s more to do.

To further reduce exposure to lead from drinking water, EPA recognizes the need to strengthen and modernize the Lead and Copper Rule, which is now 25 years old.  EPA has been working intensely to develop proposed revisions to the LCR, and we expect to propose a rule in 2017. With that in mind, EPA is releasing a White Paper on the Lead and Copper Rule Revisions to ensure that stakeholders are informed of the options that EPA is considering as part of the rulemaking process. This paper provides examples of regulatory options that EPA is evaluating and highlights key challenges, opportunities, and analytical issues presented by these options. EPA expects the paper will help facilitate our ongoing engagement with stakeholders and the public as we work to develop a proposed rule.

Topics addressed in the white paper released today include consideration of lead service line replacement, improving optimal corrosion control treatment requirements, consideration of a health-based benchmark for household-level interventions, the potential role of point-of-use filters, clarifications or strengthening of tap sampling requirements, increased transparency, and enhanced public education requirements. Additional information under consideration includes copper requirements and addressing broader lead issues.

Many of the topics and options were developed based on recommendations from EPA’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council, the Science Advisory Board, the national experience in carrying out the requirements of the existing rule, the experience in Flint, Michigan and other cities nationwide, as well as feedback and input from a broad range of stakeholders, experts and concerned citizens.  EPA will continue to engage actively with stakeholders and we expect that this paper will help to inform that engagement as we work to develop a proposed rule for public comment. We also recognize that there may be other considerations that will need to be addressed as we continue our discussion and receive feedback through the rulemaking process.

EPA understands that there is no single answer or simple solution for reducing lead in drinking water. However, EPA is committed to ensuring that we use best available science, carry out the most robust analyses of regulatory options and are informed by stakeholder input as we update the rule to protect the American public from lead in drinking water.

Revising the Lead and Copper Rule is also part of our broader work to improve the safety and reliability of drinking water in America. Earlier this year we announced the development of a national action plan for drinking water, which will outline strategies for issues such as implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, equity in infrastructure funding, and emerging contaminants. We expect to release this plan in the coming weeks.

To learn more visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/lead-and-copper-rule-long-term-revisions

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Modernizing Our Country’s Drinking Water Monitoring Data

By Joel Beauvais

We live in a society that allows us to get information through our phones, TVs, and computers from across the world in a matter of seconds. Although we’ve come a long way in the information age, some of our country’s most important public health information is still collected and shared using antiquated methods like manual data entry and even paper reporting.

That’s why I’m excited to announce of the launch of EPA’s  new Compliance Monitoring Data Portal (CMDP), which allows water laboratories and public drinking water systems to electronically share drinking water data with their states and tribal agencies. The portal will allow us to replace the paper-based system, leading to more timely and higher-quality monitoring data. By reducing the hours previously spent manually entering data, identifying data-entry errors, and issuing data resubmittal requests, states and tribes will now be able to free up more time to focus on preventing and responding  to public health issues in their communities. Once fully implemented by all states nationwide, we expect the new portal could reduce state data entry and data management work by work by hundreds of thousands of hours per year.

CMDP’s launch marks the completion of the first phase of our agency’s multi-year Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) modernization project. We are also making improvements in the development of a system called SDWIS Prime.  Prime will improve state decision making by using the sample data received from CMDP to develop new reports and provide automated notifications.  Prime is currently scheduled to be released in 2018.

Together, CMDP and Prime will help increase the timeliness and accuracy of drinking water data transferred between drinking water systems, primacy agencies, and EPA.  Systems like these can help move our country closer to a future where all Americans will have faster and better access to information about the quality of the water that is piped into their homes.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Partnering with States to Cut Nutrient Pollution

By Joel Beauvais

Nutrient pollution remains one of America’s most widespread and costly environmental and public health challenges, threatening the prosperity and quality of life of communities across the nation. Over the last 50 years, the amount of excess nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways has steadily increased, impacting water quality, feeding harmful algal blooms, and affecting drinking water sources. From the Lake Erie algae blooms to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, nutrient pollution is impacting every corner of our country and economy.

In 2011, EPA urged a renewed emphasis on partnering with the states and key stakeholders to accelerate the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution through state nutrient load reduction frameworks that included taking action in priority watersheds while developing long-term measures to require nutrient reductions from both point and non-point sources. Many states and communities have stepped up and taken action, supported with EPA financial and technical assistance. States have worked with partners to reduce excess nutrients and achieve state water quality standards in over 60 waterways, leaving nearly 80,000 acres of lakes and ponds and more than 900 miles of rivers and streams cleaner and healthier. And, in the Chesapeake Bay region, more than 470 wastewater treatment plants have reduced their discharges of nitrogen by 57 percent and phosphorus discharges by 75 percent.

We’ve made good progress but this growing challenge demands all hands on deck nationwide. Recent events such as the algae bloom in the St. Lucie Estuary in Florida and high nitrate levels in drinking water in Ohio and Wisconsin tell us we need to do more and do it now.

That’s why I signed a memorandum that asks states to intensify their efforts on making sustained progress on reducing nutrient pollution. EPA will continue to support states with financial and technical assistance as they work with their local agricultural community, watershed protection groups, water utilities, landowners, and municipalities to develop nutrient reduction strategies tailored to their unique set of challenges and opportunities.  Partnerships with USDA and the private sector – for example the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and more efficient fertilizer use on sensitive lands such as in the Maumee River basin in Ohio – are yielding more rapid nutrient reductions in areas most susceptible to the effects of nutrient pollution. Private sector partnerships that engage the power of the food supply chain, such as the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, hold much promise too.  Innovative permitting solutions are driving improvements.  For example, Boise, Idaho’s wastewater treatment plant permit that allows them to meet their nutrient limits in part by treating and reducing phosphorus in agricultural return flow in the nearby Dixie Drain at less cost to the taxpayers.  These examples and others show us that states, in cooperation with federal agencies and the private sector, can drive nutrient reduction actions.

To help states make further immediate progress, this year EPA will provide an additional $600,000 of support for states and tribal nutrient reduction projects that promise near-term, measurable nutrient load reductions.  This assistance will focus on public health threats from nitrate pollution in drinking water sources and harmful algal blooms in recreational waters and reservoirs.

With continued collaboration and partnership, I am confident we will make greater and quicker progress on achieving significant and measurable near-term reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.  In turn, we will support a more vibrant economy and improve public health for all.

Read more about EPA efforts to reduce nutrient pollution.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Join us at WEFTEC in New Orleans Next Week!

By Joel Beauvais

For those of you who work on water issues, you may be headed to New Orleans in late September to attend the annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference. The event is one of the world’s largest water events, bringing together thousands of water professionals to network, provide information, and share best practices in water management. If you are planning to go, we hope you can attend one of the presentations, panels, and discussions EPA is involved in. And be sure to swing by our booth!

Here’s how you can connect with us at the conference:

Keynote:  At 10 a.m. Monday, September 26, I will be delivering the keynote to the Great Water Cities: Creating the Future of Water session. This session is part of an ongoing forum allowing water leaders to discuss their experiences and share solutions to challenges faced by water systems of all sizes.

Policy Session: Monday, September 26will feature the Clean Water Policy session starting at 1:30 p.m. This technical session will include presentations from senior management in the Office of Water as well as Jon Capacasa, Water Director from EPA’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia.

EPA Booth: Check out EPA’s booth at the conference, #429 in Hall B1. Please stop by to chat with EPA staff about programs related to water infrastructure finance, climate resiliency, technology and innovation, water quality, and drinking water. Staff will also be handing out flashdrives with information about Agency programs.

Federal Partners: This year we are joined by several other federal agencies to highlight joint efforts to protect and preserve water quality and quantity. Please stop by our booth for information and to speak with representatives from the Department of State, Department of Energy, and U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation.

Speakers Series at the EPA Booth: Throughout the conference, we will be hosting a series of speakers at our conference booth throughout the three days of the exhibition. The topics will range from the Water-Energy Nexus to integrated permitting to the new Test Bed Network, and more! Please visit our website or EPA booth #429 for the full schedule of speakers and topics.

If you are not in New Orleans, you can follow us on Twitter @EPAwater for posts from WEFTEC. But I hope to see many of you there.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Rural Alaskan Native Village’s Journey for Safe Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

Here, Joel Beauvais peeks into the settling chamber of the package water treatment system

Here, Joel Beauvais peeks into the settling chamber of the package water treatment system

I recently returned from a work trip to Alaska, where I met with colleagues from EPA’s Alaska Operations Office and Alaska’s Department of Conservation to discuss a variety of water-related  issues and tour a few facilities, communities, and projects. I expected to be to be wowed by the good work Alaskans are doing to protect their waters while strengthening their communities, but what I didn’t expect was to be so moved by one native village’s journey to provide their families with in-home piped water and sewer lines for the first time.

Kwethluk is one of Alaska’s oldest, rural, and remote villages. It’s located in southwest Alaska and accessible only by air or water. Most in the nearly 800-person community still practice a subsistence lifestyle, relying on the nearby and bountiful Kwethluk River. Due to the surrounding challenging environment and perceived high costs to construct, operate, and maintain a drinking water and wastewater system, the village did not have access to community water and wastewater infrastructure. Villagers self-hauled potable water to their homes from a central distribution point and disposed of human waste in open buckets that were transferred in collection containers to a lagoon outside of town. These conditions presented not only quality of life issues but health and safety risks, too. Exposure to life-threatening bacteria and parasites spills was common and contamination quickly spread throughout the community by rain and airborne dust.

Kwethluk was the perfect candidate for EPA’s Alaska Native Village (ANV) program funding. Since 1996, the ANV program has distributed nearly $520 million in funds for sustainable and affordable in-home water and sanitation services in 240 Alaskan native villages and 60 non-native underserved communities. Funds are used for the planning, design, construction and/or repair of new or improved water and wastewater systems.

In 2009 EPA’s ANV program, in cooperation with U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State of Alaska, and the Indian Health Service, initiated the funding for the construction for Kwethluk’s first-ever drinking water and wastewater community facilities as well as the plumbing to every Kwethluk home.

Construction of sewer collection piping in the Kwethluk, Alaska community.

Construction of sewer collection piping in the Kwethluk, Alaska community.

After years of studying, planning, and hard work, today, more than 150 Kwethluk families are experiencing their first warm showers and flushing toilets in their bathrooms and clean, safe drinking water from their kitchen faucets. My EPA and Alaskan state colleagues gave me a tour of the community where I got to see the final phases of this monumental effort.

I also got to see the community’s new sewage disposal lagoon, water treatment plant, and a huge,318,000-gallon water storage tank, which were also built with support from the ANV program.

Here is an image of the inside workings of the Kwethluk water treatment plant.

Here is an image of the inside workings of the Kwethluk water treatment plant.

The heart of any arctic or subarctic water system like the one in Kwethluk is the water treatment plant.  Not only does the water treatment plant treat the water from the Kwethluk River to meet EPA drinking water standards, the water treatment plant also heats and circulates the water throughout town so the water mains do not freeze. This circulation requires twice as many water mains as a conventional system as well as additional heat, which substantially increases operational costs. To help reduce costs, the Kwethluk water treatment plant is exploring the use of an innovative remote monitoring system that would send automatic alerts via wireless system to the local maintenance employee of imminent issues such as freezing pipes, water quality problems, or excessive energy use. These alerts help prevent costly maintenance fixes that require labor and materials to be flown in, offset the plant’s technical and management support costs, as well as could ensure high quality drinking water.

While it was moving to learn about Kwethluk’s long journey to have its first in-home water and sewer access, there are still over 35  communities in Alaska that don’t have access to a safe, modern drinking water and sanitation system—which is unacceptable. EPA remains committed more than ever to working with our state, federal, local, and tribal partners to ensure that every American, no matter where they live, has access to safe drinking water and modern wastewater management where and when they need it.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Water Infrastructure is Everyone’s Business

By Joel Beauvais

Safe drinking water and effective wastewater management are basic building blocks of public health. Too often, we neglect our infrastructure until it fails. We need to invest in America’s water infrastructure – and we need to be strategic about doing it right – especially in disadvantaged communities.

We’ve known for years that our nation’s investments in water and wastewater infrastructure weren’t keeping up with the needs—which EPA estimates at $655 billion over the next 20 years. But those struggles are not the same everywhere—they are most acute in low-income and small communities.

In the wealthiest country on Earth, clean water needs to be available to everyone–no matter what part of the country you live in, no matter how much or how little money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.

To fix the problem, we’ll not only need innovative financing to leverage more investment, but we’ll also need to help these communities build capacity—so they can sustainably manage and operate their water systems, get access to those funds, and put them to good use.

We have to start by confronting the same ingrained, systemic challenges that threaten our country’s water resources – a resource that’s essential to every human being on the planet.

  • That means taking a serious look at America’s aging water infrastructure – in both urban and rural communities across the country – and asking ourselves what needs to be done to upgrade it.
  • That means finding better ways to address legacy pollutants, while striving to better understand the risks of emerging pollutants—and what they mean for water treatment technologies moving forward.
  • That means asking hard questions about how we achieve environmental justice—and how we deal with the long-term disinvestment in low income communities that contributed to situations like the terrible one we saw in Flint.

Everyone needs to bring their tools to the table—at the local, tribal and state level—along with utilities, investors, community advocates, and civil society. There’s a lot of innovative work going on out there, and we need to share and leverage each other’s ideas and expertise.

Joel Beauvais speaks from behind the conference panel table with four other presenters facing a room filled with conference attendees.

Joel Beauvais, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, speaks on a panel about best practices in water infrastructure funding coordination in Washington, DC.

For one thing, we need to make sure our current funding is working as hard as it can. Some states have been especially successful in leveraging EPA capitalization grants into more money—that can be lent to borrowers at below-market interest rates. We need to transfer these lessons to all states.

We also need new tools. EPA is getting started with one new one—our Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, authority, to provide loans for large infrastructure projects. We hope to have rules on this out by the end of this year.

Finally, we also need to attract more private capital into the infrastructure market. This is not a new idea—many communities have been doing this for years, but we need to apply lessons learned to other parts of the country.

We know that for our infrastructure to stand the test of time, we have to build sustainability and climate resilience into our designs. EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center was created a year and a half ago to provide innovative financial and technical guidance to communities.

Already, they’re helping communities across the country make better-informed decisions about financing resilient, sustainable infrastructure projects—consistent with their local needs. We’re doing it through direct outreach, tools, and strategies shared in regional water finance forums and everyday conversations. We also provide technical assistance grants to help small systems get the technical, managerial, and financial capacity they need to stay sustainable over the long term.

The WaterCare project, announced earlier this year, is also helping communities in need by offering targeted financial and technical planning and guidance.

And EPA is developing a drinking water action plan that focuses on addressing environmental justice and equity in infrastructure funding. We’ll be releasing that later this year.

We are committed to working with all of you to strengthen our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Our health—and our national security—depend on it.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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EPA Continues Work with States to Improve Protection from Lead in Drinking Water

By Joel Beauvais

Taking action to address lead in drinking water is a top priority for EPA. We are continuing our robust work on implementation and compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), working closely with states, who under the Safe Drinking Water Act are the first line of oversight of drinking water systems. During the past six months, EPA has engaged with every state drinking water program to ensure they are addressing any high lead levels and fully implementing the current rule.

On February 29, 2016, EPA sent letters to all Governors, state environment and public health commissioners, and tribal leaders outlining specific steps they should take to enhance oversight of LCR implementation. Today, we are providing our response to the letters received from states and are making the state responses available on our website.

Currently, every state has confirmed – either in its initial response to the February 29 letters or in follow-up communications with EPA – that state protocols and procedures are fully consistent with the  LCR and applicable EPA guidance, including protocols and procedures for optimizing corrosion control. States have indicated that they already posted or will post state LCR sampling protocols and guidance to their public websites. In addition, many states have provided examples of how they are promoting transparency and public education.

The state responses also highlight areas where both states and EPA should focus further efforts with public water systems going forward. These include:

  • prompt public notification of lead sampling results and public education following action level exceedances,
  • increased focus on systems serving vulnerable populations including schools, systems with historical action level exceedances
  • identification of lead service line locations, and
  • additional training and information to address key issues identified in the state responses, including LCR requirements and corrosion control.

We appreciate the state responses, and will continue to follow up on the identified issue areas to confirm proper implementation of the Lead and Copper Rule and related agency guidance, as well as to offer assistance if needed. We encourage all states to learn from one another and to implement best practices that strengthen public health protections. EPA remains committed to, and is actively working on, proposed revisions to the LCR that will strengthen the public health protections of the rule.

EPA has also launched a concerted, strategic engagement with key partners and stakeholders – including state, tribal and local governments, drinking water utilities, and public health, environmental and community stakeholders – to develop and implement a national action plan to address the critical drinking water challenges and opportunities before us.

Learn more about what you can do to reduce lead in your drinking water.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Celebrating 10 Years of WaterSense

By Joel Beauvais

Did you know that two-thirds of the continental U.S. has experienced drought in the last few years? It has left many utilities grappling with water scarcity and the costs of finding new water resources and treatment.

This makes conserving water is more important now than ever.

This month we mark the 10th anniversary of EPA’s WaterSense program, which has helped save more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water and $32.6 billion on American utility bills.

How did we do this? Through the power of partnerships the WaterSense program has transformed the marketplace for products that save water, saved Americans’ money, and protected the environment. WaterSense has partnered with more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers and distributors, water and energy utilities, state and local government, non-profit and trade organizations, irrigation training organizations, and home builders.

Today, thanks to working with industry and other partners, American families and businesses can buy WaterSense-labeled products that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently certified to perform as well or better than standard models. In fact, Americans can choose from more than 16,000 available models of WaterSense-labeled products for bathrooms, commercial kitchens and irrigation systems.

Already, more than 700 families around the country have cut their energy and water bills by up to $600 because they live in WaterSense-labeled new homes that can save about 50,000 gallons of water every year, compared to a typical home. Homeowners and businesses can hire any of the 2,200 WaterSense certified irrigation professionals to help design, install, and maintain an irrigation system that delivers a healthy landscape while minimizing waste.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a product design laboratory of one of our valued WaterSense partners, Kohler Company. Kohler has been a partner since 2007, offering more than 600 models of WaterSense labeled products and becoming an eight time WaterSense award winner. Kohler, like many of our partners, has brought leading-edge innovation to U.S. customers by designing and testing new toilets, faucets, shower heads, and more for efficiency and performance. It was great to talk with Kohler’s sustainability and design team about what has made the partnership work and to hear their thoughts for the future.

I’m proud that the WaterSense label has become an international symbol that consumers and businesses can rely on for superior performing water-efficiency products. We couldn’t have accomplished our successes without the strong partnership we have built with our network of partners representing all sectors of the economy. Working hand-in-hand with these partners helps this nation protect our water supply and meet the challenges of climate change.

I encourage you to join a Twitter Chat we are hosting tomorrow at 1 p.m. to celebrate the anniversary and answer questions about how to save water this summer. To join the conversation, follow @EPAWater on Twitter use the #WaterSense in your messages during the chat.

Learn more about WaterSense and actions you can take to save water at: www.epa.gov/watersense.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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May is American Wetlands Month: What We’re Doing to Protect America’s Wetlands

By Joel Beauvais

May is American Wetlands Month and a time to celebrate the importance of our nation’s wetlands. Healthy wetlands reduce water pollution, buffer communities from severe and costly impacts from floods, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. Our economy also benefits from many recreational opportunities that wetlands offer along with goods that come from wetlands.

Earlier this month, we released the country’s first-ever national assessment of the ecological health of our nation’s wetlands. With support from our state, tribal, and federal partners, we were able to send over 50 field crews to survey 1,138 wetlands across the nation to collect data on plants, soil, water chemistry, and algae.

The report found that about half of our wetlands are in good condition, with 32 percent in poor condition.  Nationally, the top sources of stress for wetlands come from vegetation removal through actions like mowing and forest clearing, soil compaction for paths and roads, and intrusion of non-native plants.

The report’s state-of-the-art, high-quality wetland science has advanced our understanding of these dynamic and extremely important ecosystems that were once actively removed throughout much of the U.S. With new insight, we are in a better position to work with our state partners to more effectively manage, protect, and restore some of those wetlands that have been lost.

It’s exciting to see that others are finding this environmental data useful, too. The Association of State Wetland Managers is using the report’s monitoring methods to evaluate wetland restoration projects in North Carolina and Ohio.  EPA’s Office of Air is using the collected soil carbon data to better estimate carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands and marshes. And, states and tribes are reaching out to us to develop complementary monitoring tools, analytical approaches, and data management technology to further their wetland protection and restoration programs.

The sampling work for the next report is already underway. It will be interesting to see new trends emerge that show that progress we are making to improve the condition of our nations’ wetlands.

EPA is also launching the National Wetland Condition Assessment Campus Research Challenge to encourage graduate students to identify and use the data to address one or more key and innovative questions and hypotheses on water quality, wetland health, or wetland ecology.

In addition to advancing the science, EPA is working with partners to address wetland protection and restoration in the U.S. Some of the ways include:

  • Overseeing dredge and fill permit decisions to ensure permits are based on science and policy, as well as developing tools for improving the management of aquatic resource protections.
  • Working with states and tribes directly and through the Association of State Wetland Mangers to bolster the ability of states and tribes to manage, regulate and protect wetlands within their state and tribal lands.
  • Working with other federal agencies on national programs to map, assess, manage and restore wetland resources on federal lands and to help private landowners be informed stewards of their wetland resources.
  • Continuing to lead the Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup on new tools, strategies, and information for protecting and restoring wetlands in coastal watersheds.

I hope you all take some time during American Wetlands Month to read our assessment and then get out to experience a wetland first-hand.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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