Every five years NEIWPCC updates its Water Program Priorities. The adoption of these priorities dovetails with NEIWPCC’s new strategic plan, mission, vision, and values, which were previously unveiled on Earth Day.
With so much at stake for the future of clean and sustainable water in the Northeast, how did we get here? NEIWPCC’s 2020 Water Program Priorities were developed from a comprehensive analysis of 140 responses to a stakeholder survey distributed to commissioners, partners, and staff. The multi-month effort was led by NEIWPCC Program Manager Christina Stringer and Environmental Analyst Peter Zaykoski.
Unlike previous years, the 2020 update provides a narrowed number of topics, each representing a key area of concern among member states. The priorities represent a “snapshot of the evolving water-related topics” where NEIWPCC is “poised to make progress.”
2020 NEIWPCC Water Program Priorities
- Contaminants of Emerging Concern/PFAS
- Watershed Planning & Waterbody Protection
- Infrastructure and State Revolving Fund
- Clean Water Act Modernization
- Training & Certification
Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Essential Elements
Climate change and environmental justice are priorities in their own right as both impact the ability to advance clean water. These issues have been incorporated under the tenets that our work is carried out “on a backdrop of a changing climate,” and by ensuring that “all of our communities have access to clear and safe water.”
Meeting our Critical Objectives
The 2020 updated priorities connect NEIWPCC’s critical objectives: funding, workforce development, and engagement in each of the priorities.
The Priorities Defined
- Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) remain a priority issue for NEIWPCC’s member states. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). PFAS’ have emerged as a persistent and expanding threat to the environment and humans alike. Drinking water and groundwater, and ambient surface water are all areas of focus. Additionally, NEIWPCC is committed to assisting member states in addressing the impacts of PFAS on sewage sludge infrastructure. 1,4-dioxane, arsenic, chloride, and temperature are expected to elevate in priority over the near future.
- A priority for NEIWPCC since 1947, when NEIWPCC set out to establish water quality standards, watershed planning and protection is an ongoing issue. Watershed planning and protection comprises water quality monitoring, pollution budgets—also known as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), permitting, and the development of best management practices. Much of this work is carried out through our program partners.
- Aging infrastructure throughout the Northeast is a growing problem. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure needs will hover close to $100 billion. Infrastructure improvements are funded through Infrastructure and the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs, and is the third priority topic for NEIWPCC. Recent efforts include a national state revolving fund workshop slated for summer of 2021 and a 2020 webinar series.
- Ensuring that the Clean Water Act (CWA) provides adequate tools to solve our nation’s 21st century water challenges continues to be a priority for NEIWPCC. Increasingly complex issues— nutrients, contaminants, stormwater, nonpoint source pollution, jurisdiction rulings, climate change—necessitate the focus on Clean Water Act Modernization. Efforts are realized through representation in national discussions, legislative monitoring and subsequent comment letters addressing proposed amendments.
- Since 1968, NEIWPCC has been committed to providing professional development and training opportunities for wastewater, drinking water and other environmental professionals preparing for state licensure and re-certification. These programs are a cornerstone offering and continue to be a priority for our member states. Without trained and certified operators, clean water would be at risk for all. Over the years, NEIWPCC has evolved when and how it provides training, most recently with the introduction of live, virtual training classes.
Moving forward, we will be sharing—through multiple communication efforts—our successes and progress in addressing these priorities.