The WEFTEC water quality conference, with its acres of pumps, filters, water treatment devices and other gizmos, moved out of the L.A. Convention Center last week. But I’m still thinking about what the 20,000-person gathering of H2O nerds means for our nation’s waters. I was asked to give three talks at the conference: one on the public view of chemicals of emerging concern in recycled water; another on the future of stormwater regulation for cities and industry; and a discussion on the greening of Los Angeles through stormwater projects and regulation.
After the debates with water professionals, I was struck by a common need: Everyone wants greater regulatory consistency and clarity.
The current federal approach is for regulations, memos, and policies to have a great deal of “flexibility.” But that wiggle room means that there isn’t much incentive to improve water quality programs. Any investor in cutting-edge water treatment technology should have the expectation that the regulatory climate will push everyone to cleaner water that is more protective of human health and aquatic life.
Without that regulatory certainty, there’s no incentive for cities or industry to buy more expensive, more effective water pollution technologies other than “doing the right thing.” Based on the lack of progress on stormwater pollution abatement nationwide, the altruistic approach has resulted in limited success.