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January 26, 2010

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Government Relations

EPA’s WaterSense Announces Winner of 2010 ‘Fix a Leak Week’ Media Event Competition

Launched in 2006, EPA’s WaterSense partnership program plays an important role in promoting water efficiency and enhancing the market for water-efficient products, programs and practices. This year, WaterSense began promoting “Fix a Leak Week,” which will take place March 15–21, 2010, by issuing a call for nominations for the WaterSense 2010 Fix a Leak Week Media Event Competition.

While there can only be one competition winner — and congratulations go to recently announced winner Dallas Water Utilities — it’s important that we all look for ways to support this important effort. In the U.S. alone, more than one trillion gallons of water leak from homes annually, and this program is an important way to help mitigate these losses by drawing attention to this wasted resource.

Many NAWC members are partners in the WaterSense program, and a number of companies — including American, Aquarion and California Service Water Company (Cal Water) — shared with us their submitted proposals on efforts they will be making during Fix a Leak Week in March.

American Water will be hosting Fix a Leak Week events in schools, community group facilities and at historic landmarks in 20 states throughout the country. At each event, American plans to set up a faucet to drip into a sizeable container a couple of days prior, and then unveil its contents as a way to visually illustrate the big effect of a small leak.

Aquarion Water Company will be recruiting “Drip Detectives” among Bridgeport, Conn., students in grades 3 through 8. These Drip Detectives will be challenged to find leaks in their home and school, and to develop creative and convincing messaging about water conservation through essays, posters, photos, videos, music or other formats of their choice.

Cal Water will partner with a neighborhood fire station to put on a Fix a Leak Block Party. The day will begin with Cal Water and firefighters identifying and repairing leaks at all homes on a selected residential block with a videographer documenting the day’s work. The day will culminate with an unveiling of the water savings achieved at the block party, and the footage will be cut into a “How to Find and Repair Household Leaks” video to be posted on Cal Water’s Web site and distributed to media.

Other NAWC members planning Fix a Leak Week activities are encouraged to share their ideas for engaging our communities to conserve water.

NRDC’s Nancy Stoner Headed Back to EPA

Nancy Stoner, currently with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is returning to EPA’s Office of Water. Though no formal announcement has been made, Stoner will reportedly be political deputy to Pete Silva, assistant administrator for water. She currently co-directs NRDCs water program and is expected to start her new position at the beginning of February.

On hearing the news, Michael Deane, NAWC’s executive director said, “I congratulate Nancy on her appointment. She brings extensive experience and great contacts throughout the water world to her new role at EPA. While I was at EPA, I enjoyed seeking greener and more sustainable solutions for water management with her. Nancy was an important and valuable participant in the recent Aspen Institute Dialogue on Sustainable Water Infrastructure that NAWC strongly supported. I look forward to continuing to work with her.”

Before joining NRDC, Nancy was director of planning and policy analysis in the EPA's Office of Enforcement. Prior to EPA, she worked for nine years at the Justice Department. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Virginia and earned her law degree at Yale Law School.

Building America’s Future Endorses Infrastructure Bank

A broad coalition led by Building America’s Future announced its support for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank as an effective vehicle for needed reforms, job creation and infrastructure investment. Supporters joined Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) at a Jan. 20 press event aimed at jumpstarting a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB).

DeLauro's bill, which boasts 44 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, would set up the bank as a government-owned entity with its own board of directors. The NIB could issue bonds, borrow money and lend the interest it earns on financed debt to encourage public-private partnerships on projects ranging from water to transit, broadband and clean energy.

Additionally, Gov. Rendell (D-PA) said the infrastructure bank could be used to make annual payments on public-private partnership leases, provide credit assistance for Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act loans, and to provide private-activity bonds and possibly Build America Bonds. Rendell also stressed that the bank should have independent bond authority.

A Senate version has yet to emerge, but Dodd has spearheaded similar legislation in the past and said today that he plans to move quickly, holding a hearing in the Banking panel next month. Despite broad support, significant hurdles remain, including differences of opinion over the best vehicle for, and the long-term effects of, the NIB.

The water industry collectively is working to identify creative finance ideas that could propel water investment if a bank were established.

Supreme Court Upends Campaign Finance Limits

In a sweeping decision the Supreme Court has overturned decades-old limitations on “independent expenditures” for political campaigns. At the core of the 5–4 decision, the Court ruled that Congress cannot ban or limit many forms of political spending by corporations. Supporters of the decision are calling it a vindication of the First Amendment.

The decision, which will apply to labor unions and other organizations, does not allow corporations to donate directly to candidates for federal office, but does allow for unlimited amounts of spending on other contributions and activities, such as direct advertising in support or opposition to a candidate.

The new campaign rules will apply in the coming 2010 elections, and experts across the spectrum agree that the ramifications of this decision on the coming races are almost impossible to overstate.

Water Alliance Releases Paper on Climate Modeling

The Water Utility Climate Alliance is a consortium of metropolitan drinking water providers dedicated to understanding and preparing for the potential impacts of climate change. The WUCA’s work is informed in part by a belief that climate science and research that reflects the needs of, and is accessible to, the water sector is crucial for furthering our understanding of the adaptation challenges we face.

WUCA commissioned a white paper to accomplish the following objectives: 1) explain how climate models work; 2) describe how models have been used in the water sector to assess potential impacts on our systems; and 3) make recommendations regarding how to improve modeling and downscaling techniques so these tools can be more useful for the water sector.

The white paper, “Options for Improving Climate Modeling to Assist Water Utility Planning for Climate Change,” is now available here.

State Water Programs Participate in Water Security Success Initiative

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) recently invited its members to provide updated information about their individual program progress in supporting and meeting the four overarching goals of the Water Sector Specific Plan:

  • Sustain Protection of Public Health and the Environment;
  • Recognize and Reduce Risks in the Water Sector;
  • Maintain a Resilient Infrastructure; and
  • Increase Communications, Outreach and Public Confidence.

Summary of Response Highlights:

  • 100% — Support for WARN: All responders are actively engaged in developing, participating in and/or supporting WARN or mutual aid initiatives. Among them, 25 states provided direct financial support; 31 provided in-kind support; and 13 states support both WARNs and Mutual Aid Networks. The 2008 response was 93 percent among state drinking water programs.
  • 96% — Targeted Assistance and Initiatives: Most states have provided targeted assistance activities and initiatives to help drinking water utilities develop or enhance an all hazards/security response program (a 10 percent increase over 2008). Most support comes through state-provided technical assistance followed closely by security-specific operator training and tabletop exercises.
  • 94% — Collaborative Efforts: Relative to collaborative efforts, 44 states have formed established relationships with their public health agency counterparts, principally to collaborate during emergencies with staff and labs (85%) but also to share information and notification technologies (72%); partner on taskforces and to interpret public health anomalies to identify waterborne public health impacts (60%).
  • 66% — Outreach/Training for Small Systems: Most of the responding programs (31) had participated in specific outreach or training for drinking water system vulnerability assessments for small (less than 3,300) systems. The most frequently used approach was to take advantage of third-party training materials and to partner with water utility organizations. However, nearly two-thirds of respondents designed templates for systems’ use and/or provided Web pages with compendiums of available tools and information.
  • 94% — Trained State Staff: A significant majority (44) of responding states do have staff with appropriate training to support water system needs within the Incident Command Structure, and 37 of them also facilitate NIMS/ICS training opportunities for water systems.
  • 91% — Outreach/Training on ERPs: Most state drinking water programs do conduct specific outreach or training for water utilities on the importance and need for an emergency response plan (either state hosted or in concert with a water community partner) and a majority of respondents (70 percent in 2009, up from 36 percent in 2008) specifically selected continuity of operations planning as a principal training focus. Other noted training efforts included risk communication, contingency planning, pandemic flu planning and infrastructure resiliency.
  • 83% — Invitations to or Participation in Emergency Response Exercises: While 39 states responded “yes” when asked if they had been invited to and/or participated in some type of emergency response exercise in which the water sector was a focus; in contrast, only 30 states (64%) noted that they had undertaken (initiated) one or more emergency response exercises specifically for their water utilities.

These responses are definite indications of good news for drinking water security. They clearly reflect the ongoing commitment of state drinking water programs to provide support for their water utilities within a collaborative and collegial process that also demonstrates success and commitment in continued protection of public health — the goal of the Safe Drinking Water Act.