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October 15, 2012
Innovation and partnership: keys to a smarter water future

At this year’s Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson made it clear that innovation and partnerships are what will ensure future clean water. Jackson, speaking in her hometown of New Orleans, emphasized that with the fiscal crisis, demand for new infrastructure, global resource constraints, emerging contaminants, and climate change, we need to start to think differently about how we manage water in order to ensure sustainable sources of clean water.

Jackson kicked off her keynote address listing many of the achievements of the past 4 decades since the enactment of the Clean Water Act (CWA), noting that two-thirds of U.S. waters meet EPA water quality criteria and that 92 percent of the U.S. population has 24-hour-a-day access to clean water that meets all federal standards. However, this progress will stall, explained Jackson, if we fail to innovate and develop new technology. In the past, most of the sources of water pollution could be addressed at the “end of the pipe”; in present times, our obstacles have changed, with an aging infrastructure, less conventional pollutants, and temperature changes and droughts. Jackson said one of the first steps in the process of adapting to these challenges is to provide strategic support to American companies in order to create partnerships both nationally and internationally.

Administrator Jackson called the WEFTEC attendees to action with a list of seven tasks on which both the public and private sectors should focus to create great advances over the next 4 decades of the CWA:

  1. Concentrate on reuse.
  2. Promote energy efficiency, and reduce energy demand.
  3. Integrate green infrastructure with existing gray infrastructure.
  4. Determine water demands and proper monitoring procedures.
  5. Support pilot programs and private-public partnerships.
  6. Get on the same page with other nations and international clean water efforts.
  7. Develop and deploy new technology.

Closing her address, Jackson noted that “even in this day and age, all Americans seem to agree that water quality is a top issue,” stating that water quality concerns top almost every environmental issue poll and that according to such polls, 75 percent of Americans say they worry a great deal or a moderate amount about water pollution.

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