A New Role for EPA’s Water Reuse Action Plan

Conservation/TecH2O Manager Anai Padilla and Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo give EPA’s Jeff Lape a tour of El Paso Water’s TecH2O Learning Center. (Photo by Carlos A. Briano)

Conservation/TecH2O Manager Anai Padilla and Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo give EPA’s Jeff Lape a tour of El Paso Water’s TecH2O Learning Center. (Photo by Carlos A. Briano)

By Jeff Lape
National Program Leader for Water Reuse, U.S. EPA

As I write this blog post, I am currently on a water reuse mission in New Mexico and Texas, learning about the array of opportunities with agriculture, industry, academia, and others to consider how water reuse can expand our portfolio of water sources. Promoting the reuse of water for beneficial purposes instead of treating it as waste has been a priority in EPA’s Office of Water. Under the direction of Assistant Administrator for Water, Dave Ross, I’m now just a few days into my newly minted role—serving as EPA’s first National Program Leader for Water Reuse.

With 80 percent of states anticipating some freshwater shortages in the next decade, all levels of government have a responsibility to ensure that Americans have access to reliable sources of clean and safe water. Water reuse has become a rapidly expanding means of improving our water portfolio and has already shown how communities, farmers, and industry can benefit in achieving environmental and public health protection, as well as assuring the security, resiliency, and sustainability of the nation’s water resources.

That’s why EPA and our federal partners facilitated development and recently released the draft National Water Reuse Action Plan in close collaboration with communities, utilities, industry, agriculture, and others. The draft Action Plan identifies priority actions and the leadership and collaboration that is needed between governmental and nongovernmental organizations to implement these actions. Our draft Action Plan, which we are seeking comment on by December 16, 2019 (https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2019-0174), embraces a holistic approach and, when issued in February 2020, will include clear commitments and milestones for actions that will further water reuse.

It’s encouraging to see water reuse already becoming integrated into our agency’s water resource efforts. For instance, just last month, EPA invited 38 new projects in 18 states to apply for a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. Eight of the selected applicants represented water reuse or recycling projects.

In my new role, I will work to finalize the Water Reuse Action Plan and then launch its implementation with support and contributions from our water sector stakeholders. I will also work across EPA to ensure our agency’s contributions and commitments are compelling and robust. And, I plan to identify ways to institutionalize water reuse in EPA’s culture so it becomes an enduring priority.

I’m excited for the challenge ahead, given that addressing future water resource challenges will necessitate more holistic thinking that embraces the “convergence of water” through more integrated action.

About the author: Jeff Lape has served as Deputy Director of the Office of Science and Technology in EPA’s Office of Water since 2010 and is now on detail as EPA’s National Program Leader for Water Reuse.

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