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EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets

By Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and Ellen Gilinsky, EPA Office of Water Senior Policy Advisor

In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.

Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff.

It’s a proven approach that creates new revenue streams for America’s farmers and ranchers while delivering significant environmental results.

While relatively few robust state and tribal water quality trading programs are in existence today, there is growing interest in markets as a tool for achieving water quality and ecosystem sustainability goals.

Our report summarizes the primary obstacles to market expansion and participants’ recommendations on how to simplify development of trading markets in their states.

It also captures the participants’ recommendations to the Administration on steps it can take to promote the use of environmental markets and water quality trading, which include:

  • Supporting a national dialogue series over the next three years, convened by the National Network On Water Quality Trading, to advance collective understanding of water quality program design, implementation, and operation across sectors and communities;
  • Increasing state awareness of water quality trading, through support of the  Association of Clean Water Administrators working directly with state agencies;
  • Highlighting successful trading programs that have attracted private capital, or are otherwise financially sustainable;
  • Compiling a list of known, voluntary conservation program design frameworks that use market-like approaches;
  • Pursuing efforts to develop a national registry for water quality trading programs;
  • Forming a stakeholder group to develop a list of tools that meet the minimum requirements of the federal and state agencies that must verify trades Increase targeted stakeholder engagement; and,
  • Working with federal and state partners to actively engage in locations where increasing participation in market-based programs may result in more rapid nutrient decreases to address immediate problems such as harmful algal blooms.

These recommendations complement the USDA-EPA Water Quality Trading Roadmap and EnviroAtlas, products our agencies have jointly developed to simplify stakeholders’ efforts to establish their own trading markets.

States, communities, and farmers and ranchers who’ve championed this innovative idea are creating momentum for others to follow.  We look forward to supporting the expansion of these markets to help  America more efficiently protect its water quality while supporting a vibrant agricultural economy in communities nationwide.

For more information, visit the USDA Environmental Markets website and EPA’s Water Quality Trading website.

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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Investing in America’s Water Infrastructure – Answering the “How to Pay?” Question

By Jim Gebhardt, CFA

Clean and reliable water is critical for life and, as our Administrator recently said, “needs to be available to everyone—no matter what part of the country you live, no matter how much money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.” Yet, despite the notion of water as an inalienable right and that most Americans value well-run drinking water and wastewater delivery systems, communities across the country continue to struggle with setting up adequate and sustainable revenue structures required to support needed infrastructure investment and system management.

That’s why we launched our Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center last year to explore leading-edge solutions to funding and revenue challenges, and identify and support best practices.

As I blogged about earlier, EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has provided more than $141 billion in low-interest loans to state and local water infrastructure projects since 1987. Today these state-run programs operate with almost $60 billion in program equity that will continue to be available to support sustainable lending programs.

Looking ahead, we see lots of opportunities for states to support market-based solutions that address stormwater mitigation challenges, source water protection, on-site wastewater management, and marketplaces for nutrient pollution credit trading. It’s also encouraging to see some states exploring how their triple-A credit rating can be used to guarantee debt and provide additional credit access to stimulate these kind of water quality investments.

But we aren’t stopping there.

We’re looking at emerging and promising finance mechanisms that address water quality and quantity challenges such as Pay for Success, Pay for Performance, green bonds, energy and water performance contracting, water quality trading, and conservation financing strategies.

We’re researching procurement and funding strategies associated with public-private and public-public partnerships in the water sector.

We’re working with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina to develop public-private and public-public project (P3) profiles and an evaluation tool to help local officials determine if there is value in pursuing P3 opportunities in their community.

We’re busy developing a water finance information clearinghouse. The first portal will provide up to date information on stormwater management frameworks, funding and revenue solutions. We plan to launch the portal this fall.

No matter where you live, we are here to help. We also invite you to attend one of our upcoming engagement opportunities:

EPA Twitter Chat: On July 27 at 2 pm EST EPA experts will be answering your water infrastructure finance questions. Direct your questions to @EPAwater and use the hashtag #WaterFinance.

Environmental Financial Advisory Board meeting: On August 9 and 10 the Environmental Financial Advisory Board will meet in Denver, Colorado, to discuss ideas and advice to provide EPA on ways to lower the costs of and increase investments in environmental and public health protection.

Regional Finance Forums: EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will continue hosting regional forums across the country to bring together communities with water infrastructure financing needs to network, hear local success stories from peers, and have an opportunity to meet key regional funding and technical assistance contacts. Check out our website for upcoming dates and locations.

About the author: Jim Gebhardt is the director for EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The Center identifies financing approaches for public health and environmental goals by providing financial expertise to help communities make better-informed decisions about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The future holds a cleaner Lake Champlain

By Curt Spalding

To stand at the edge of Lake Champlain, looking at the rich blue water in the foreground and the Adirondack mountaintops in the background, is to behold one of New England’s most beautiful landscapes.

On a brilliant summer day, I have seen anglers trolling here for bass, sailors riding the wind and Champlain4children frolicking along the shores. I have seen the commerce that comes with half a million tourists and commuters who are ferried across the lake to New York each year.

But for years, this exquisitely beautiful source of economic growth, local pride and drinking water for 145,000 people has been compromised by too much phosphorus. Runoff from farms, rooftops, parking lots, roads, and forests, eroding stream banks and discharges from wastewater treatment facilities have all added to phosphorus overload.

Most of our regions’ lakes, rivers and streams contain some amount of naturally occurring phosphorus. But each waterbody can hold only so much phosphorus before it creates an ecosystem choked with algae that suffocates wildlife and makes waters unsafe for swimming. Lake Champlain has been over its limit for decades now, especially in the narrow, southern portion of the lake, and St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays.

However, we have reason to feel assured that the future will bring a cleaner and healthier Lake Champlain. This month my colleagues at EPA issued the final version of a new plan that spells out how much phosphorus the various parts of this lake can support. This document, called a “Total Maximum Daily Load” plan sets new required pollution reduction targets for the Vermont sources of phosphorus to the 120-mile-long lake that separates northwestern Vermont from northeastern New York.

Cham[plain2The new limits, along with a state law passed last year give the state responsibility for reaching the targets, and for coming up with the controls necessary for achieving these goals. I have watched state and environmental leaders work long and hard to shape the plans and policies and I am confident that the programs, regulations and permits they are now working to put in place will succeed in reducing phosphorus levels from farms, commercial developments, roads, and forests.

The new limits were developed in collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, who each have a role in the success of this plan. The new plan reflects years of work and input from many organizations and people across the Lake Champlain basin.

While the new limits are a major milestone on the path to reducing phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain and in preventing the algae blooms, much work still has to be done to make the lake as healthy as it can and should be. Nearly everybody who lives, works or vacations in the basin contributes to the problem in some way and it will take an “all in” effort to bring the lake back to good health. Our EPA staff will be there to help our partners and ensure we achieve the desired levels. And we’ll issue report cards to help all of us and the public keep track of the progress.

One of my biggest joys in working at the New England office of the Environmental Protection Agency is witnessing the restoration of our beautiful lakes. Lake restoration happens slowly and requires effort over many years, particularly for large lakes like Lake Champlain, but I’m optimistic that the key ingredients are in place to bring about gradual recovery of this special body of water.

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Curt Spalding is regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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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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The Time to Invest in America’s Water Infrastructure is Now

By Jim Gebhardt, CFA

Communities across the country are facing the immediate challenges of aging and inadequate drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Most of our country’s underground water infrastructure was built 50 or more years ago, and in some older cities, water mains are a century old. The implications of deteriorating infrastructure can be felt nationwide— each year our country experiences about 240,000 water main breaks, $2.6 billion is lost as our water mains leak trillions of gallons of treated drinking water, and billions of gallons of raw sewage are discharged into local surface waters from aging sewer overflows.

Despite significant federal, state, and local expenditures, infrastructure investment has fallen short. Further, the cumulative investment gap is expected to widen substantially over the next 20 years with federal investments occupying a smaller space. EPA’s Clean Watershed Needs Survey and Drinking Water Needs Survey show that over $655 billion dollars in water infrastructure is needed over the next 20 years to keep pace with projected investment needs.

Over the years EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund have both been very successful at addressing important water quality and public health needs of communities across the country. With these funds we have supported state and local water infrastructure investment that provides essential services and reduces pollution in our waterways.

While our state revolving funds have been highly successful, there are still too many communities facing infrastructure challenges caused by inadequate revenue and investment.

That’s why in 2015 we launched EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center to identify and promote best management practices that can help local leaders to make informed decisions for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure that are consistent with local needs. The Center promotes the effective use of federal funds, identifies new approaches for procuring infrastructure services and capital investment for local and state governments, and employs strategies that can better serve small and lower income communities.

To explore the unique funding and financing challenges of these communities, EPA will be hosting a national convening on July 19 in Washington, DC, where state, local, and federal leaders will share best practices in coordinating funding and showcase innovative local financing solutions. I’m confident that the robust representation of states, utilities, NGOs, academics, and others will produce meaningful and productive conversations and solutions. Watch for a blog that details the conversations and next steps from the event.

The time to act is now.

About the author: Jim Gebhardt is the Director for EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The Center identifies financing approaches for public health and environmental goals by providing financial expertise to help communities make better-informed decisions about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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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.

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An EPA where the “P” stands for Partnership

By John Kemmerer

As you know, partnerships with local communities and agencies at all levels are critically important to EPA’s protection of public health and the environment.  EPA is one of 14 agencies working to revitalize urban waterways and surrounding communities through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.

I engage in this work, as do our partners, because we’ve seen that when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, we can make a substantive difference.  I nominated the Los Angeles River Watershed as one of the first Urban Waters Partnership locations in 2011 after being impressed by visionary, yet practical, local initiatives to revitalize the river.  Our partnership in the Los Angeles River Watershed provides a real opportunity for us to help make this natural asset the centerpiece of a healthy and sustainable community.

The partnership initially coalesced around a single priority, an ongoing Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of L.A.  Completion of this study would be the first domino to fall to begin river revitalization in earnest, but federal funding was lacking.  The newly formed partnership collaborated on strategies for bridging this funding gap and a local NGO received a private donation which was transferred to the USACE to finish the study.  Once the study was completed, in 2013 the partnership built public awareness for the locally preferred project alternative ultimately accepted by the USACE. Implementation of this restoration plan will dramatically change the landscape, result in wide-ranging recreational benefits, help the river adapt to climate change, improve water quality, and replenish local groundwater supplies.

Already, members of the partnership have been able to expand recreational opportunities to bring people to the river, including kayaking programs and the certification of Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and are making the watershed more resilient to the impacts of climate change via programs such as the Bureau of Reclamation and Los Angeles County’s Los Angeles Basin Stormwater Conservation Study.

As the lead federal agency in the L.A. River Urban Waters Partnership, EPA has provided funding for a dedicated coordinator, known as the Urban Waters Ambassador, ensuring each stakeholder has a place in the partnership and facilitating collaboration towards common goals.  Pauline Louie, an employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been the Ambassador here since 2012.  Pauline has been dedicated to building relationships among partners and finding opportunities to leverage investments, greatly increasing our collective ability to focus on underserved communities and opening doors that will enable continued progress in years to come.

Our Ambassador has even brought the finance world into the partnership.  For example, our new relationship with the Federal Reserve Bank recently gave the partnership the opportunity to showcase our work to the banking sector at the Community Reinvestment Conference in Los Angeles and discuss how the private sector can engage to advance long-term community priorities along the river.

Cultivating long-term and new relationships allows the Urban Waters Partnership in Los Angeles to not only address past challenges but also be prepared for the challenges in the future. We are motivated to realizing a healthy L.A. River Watershed and hopeful for the exciting transformations that these partnerships catalyze in Los Angeles and urban waters locations across the country.

About the author: “With over 30 years of EPA experience, John Kemmerer is the Associate Water Director for EPA’s Region 9. John’s focus includes water issues in Southern California and sustainability of local water resources.”

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

By Cameron Davis

Growing up, my family and I used to drive over the I-90 “Skyway” to Pennsylvania during spring breaks. As acute as my memories are of piling into the back of our yellow Chevrolet Caprice station wagon (complete with fake exterior wood paneling), I also remember my brother, sister and I holding our noses as we reached the Skyway bridge venturing into Northwest Indiana’s airspace. We drove by the sluggish Grand Calumet River, whose flow was then infamous for being comprised mostly of wastewater from nearby manufacturing plants. The river was virtually lifeless.

 

Four decades later, and after even more time of dogged work by legislative, civic and agency leaders, the Grand Cal is fighting to make a comeback. And there are signs it’s winning the fight for its own survival.

Four years ago, on June 11, 2012, we celebrated the completion work at one of the river’s most visible assets: Roxana Marsh.

“Roxana Marsh has become a special place for local schoolchildren, both as an outdoor laboratory and as a peaceful natural area,” said Caitie Nigrelli of IL-IN Sea Grant, who helped rally local community involvement for the site.

A combination of efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management had contributed some $52 million—including funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process—to revive the area in and around Roxana Marsh. The revival involved removing upwards of 730,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. It also involved replacing invasive, cattail-like Phragmites, with native plantings in some 25 acres of wetlands along 2 ½ miles of the Grand Cal River.

Two months ago, while driving to Kentucky for spring break, I pointed out the area to my own son and daughter. Today, a very different Roxana Marsh can be seen from the highway: budding instead of battered, alive instead of lifeless, “green,” as my kids said early this year, instead of “gross!” as my brother, sister and I uttered four decades ago.

 

 

 

 

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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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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EPA: “Aim High” – Working Toward a Sustainable Future

By Administrator Gina McCarthy

Last month, I asked EPA employees to share how their work at EPA is contributing to a sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. I wanted to hear about the many ways our staff are going above and beyond EPA’s foundational work to limit harmful pollution, and taking proactive steps to build healthy, economically vibrant communities.

Our teams responded in force, with 55 stories about the diverse, creative, and innovative ways they are building a sustainable future. Our best ideas are those that can be shared, replicated, and built upon. And we have so much to learn from each other’s successes. Here are some team highlights from across the agency:

Sustainable city planning: A team based in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in partnership with a number of EPA offices and regions, is looking at the connection between green infrastructure, energy consumption, and improved air quality. The team is providing technical assistance to Kansas City, MO-KS, to help better quantify the changes in pollution that result from “greening” of urban infrastructure in the area (i.e., green streets, green roofs, trees). This project will ultimately help promote green infrastructure projects that demonstrably improve water quality and advance sustainability – so that they can be incorporated into future city planning.

Green Remediation: EPA Region 1 is using strategies to make the cleanup of contaminated sites more sustainable, including by promoting, tracking, and considering green and sustainable remediation practices for Brownfield sites and Superfund sites. These efforts are helping to minimize the impacts of remediation and cleanup efforts, and ensure long-term, sustainable outcomes.

Community-Based Social Marketing: Region 5 provided funding and contractor assistance to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, as they worked with their local tribal college to improve waste management. The project used community-based social marketing (CBSM) techniques to develop positive behavior strategies that are culturally appropriate. The project focused on increasing recycling behavior at the Band’s community college. Results from the pilot showed a 41% overall increase in the recycling rate at major locations throughout the campus. The Band worked with Region 5 and contractor support to put together a Tribal CBSM Training Guide, based on the lessons learned from the pilot to encourage other tribes to use CBSM to increase sustainable behaviors.

Coordinating Across EPA Programs: EPA Region 10 staff from Superfund, Clean Water Act, TSCA and Counsel have coordinated for several years to better align and sustain efforts in reducing toxics in waters. Staff recognized that in order to achieve more sustainable and long-lasting results, they needed to work together to more efficiently and effectively reduce toxics in the environment.  This includes addressing ongoing sources of and pathways for pollutants and aligning overlapping programmatic efforts to “clean up” waters and sediments. This small ad-hoc group ensured that language was added to EPA’s National Industrial Stormwater General Permit requiring those discharging into local Superfund Sites to work with the Regional office to minimize impacts and prevent caulking and paint sources of PCBs from getting into Superfund sediment sites. Region 10 staff also wrote language included in the Washington General Fish hatchery Permit to identify and remove sources of PCBs.

CWSRF: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and the Farmer’s Irrigation District (FID) collaborated and used the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) to convert miles of open, earthen irrigation ditch system to a pressurized and piped system for Hood River’s Farmers Irrigation District. Most recently the Farmers Irrigation District also began using the CWSRF loans to purchase equipment for production of clean, renewable energy through micro-­‐hydroelectric generation.

I couldn’t be prouder of the work EPA employees are doing across the country. Here’s to more creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in the months and years ahead.

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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