Thursday, February 25, 2010

The WEF WaterBlog Has Moved!

As of February 2010, the WEF WaterBlog has moved to a new spot! Bookmark into your favorites - this is where you'll find the latest WaterBlog, along with all of the archived blogs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Urban Rivers: Don’t Miss the Boat to a Sustainable Future for Our Cities!

By Paul Freedman, 2009-2010 President of WEF

There was a time when large urban cities, like Boston, saw their waterfront locations as assets in transporting wastes away from the city and supporting navigation, commerce, and manufacturing. These urban cities still see the waterfront asset today, but in a different light. Today’s cities want to integrate their waters into urban life as part of building greener, cleaner places for living, recreation, and supporting business and commerce. I mentioned Boston because it’s the site of WEF’s Cities of the Future and Urban River Restoration 2010 conferences. There practitioners and visionaries will take a comprehensive look at revitalizing urban rivers and waterfronts and explore the exciting possibilities for sustainable urban environments, our cities of the future.

For successful and sustainable cities and urban river restoration, integrated planning is essential. Multiple stakeholders with different agendas, problems, and budgets must get together and develop one vision to leverage rivers as a source of water supply, social and commercial enhancement, even spiritual renewal. This event will bring major players together, including city planners and administrators, transportation and landscape engineers and architects, public works directors and other officials, to focus on urban river restoration, and they’ll be sharing ideas in the context of sustainability and a population shift back into cities. Collaborative input from different types of professionals is needed to create sustainable urban infrastructure and the interdependent engineered and natural systems that will characterize our future cities. That is why WEF for the first time has simultaneously co-located two specialty conferences, Cities of the Future and Urban River Restoration.

Revitalizing cities and especially major urban industrial areas that are abandoned or scarred can be realized with the right kind of vision and integrated planning. The outcome can be vibrant sustainable cities with triple bottom line benefits including a cleaner environment, enhanced lifestyles, and stronger economies. With the right stakeholders and an eye toward sustainability, water quality leaders can start planning today or certainly in Boston next month. Be sure to plan to attend this exciting event!

Friday, January 15, 2010

So You Want to Run a First-Class Utility?

Once again, a new year has started and folks everywhere are reviewing goals for personal growth and setting new ones. On the professional side, water quality leaders have the Water Environment Federation’s vast and varied resources to help them grow and become even better at protecting the world’s water. Utility managers (and I was one for some 23 years) have a special resource to support their goal-setting and desire for top operational efficiency--the Effective Utility Management Primer for Water and Wastewater Utilities.

I wanted to blog about the EUM because those who care about great utility management need to know about this invaluable tool…it worked at my utility and it can work for yours. To develop it, managers from 16 diverse facilities, large and small, public and private, water and wastewater, came together through EPA to identify the breadth of what is involved in effective utility management and strategic planning. Appointed by collaborators EPA, AMWA, APWA, AWWA, NACWA, NAWC, and WEF(as a WEF appointees I represented Columbus Water Works), we hammered out what is needed for success and how to measure progress. The result is a terrific and practical tool for strategic planning and management—well worth using by managers on their own or with consultant assistance.

You know so many times we think of the technical aspects of running a utility, but there are many other elements to consider. For example, a first-class operation really pays attention to customer service, whether you’re talking water or wastewater. That’s just one of 10 attributes outlined in the EUM, which also describes the five keys to management success.

If you are passionate about clean water and great management, I highly recommend you check out this important tool, which is the basis for The Utility Management Conference in San Francisco next month. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear from folks who are using the EUM or have questions about its use. Please share comments here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Putting the 'Special' in 2010 Specialty Conferences

By Jeanette Brown, 2009-2010 President-Elect of WEF

Welcome to 2010 at the Water Environment Federation, where this year’s Specialty Conference series looks to be better than ever before. As a participant in the 2009 Nutrient Conference, I gained so much both professionally and personally because of the technical content and the ability to network with experts in the field. I have participated in and attended other specialty conferences this past year where the experience was just as rewarding. These conferences are exclusive and wonderful ways to learn about select areas from leaders in the field. As you can see from the list below in 2010, we plan an even greater variety of conferences which offer something for all professionals employed in the water sector. If any of these topics applies to your job or appeals to your interest, please consider joining the thousands of water quality professionals who participate in these unique events every year. For technical excellence, superior meeting arrangements, and unmatched networking opportunities, you’ll find WEF truly puts the ‘special’ in specialty conferences. See you in Savannah for Residuals and Biosolids!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Speaking of Holiday Magic...

By Paul Freedman, 2009-2010 President of the Water Environment Federation

It’s the season when families and friends gather to share gifts and holiday cheer, and festive music, decorations, and lights are everywhere. Some say it’s the most magical time of the year, and I’d agree, although I’d also point out that water is pretty magical too, and that’s all year round.

Water is the only element that naturally changes before our eyes from liquid, to gaseous, to solid forms. Every time you see a waterfall, a cloud, or this time of year, a snowflake, you are looking at the magic of water transformed. But even beyond these special physical qualities, water is absolutely magical in essence, fundamental to life itself, and a treasure that must be protected and shared.

Sadly, 2.6 billion people around the world lack adequate water supply and sanitation. Although industrialized countries, the U.S. included, experience some quality of life and economic impacts related to increasing water scarcity, developing countries are much more critically impacted by inadequate water supply and untreated wastewater. They are facing an immediate health crisis that threatens millions of lives and kills over a million children ever year. It’s like comparing the ability to water your lawn with having enough water to drink— there is no comparison. Millions are dying, and Water Environment Federation members have the technical knowledge and ability to help.

Beyond extending our expertise as we work to protect and preserve water resources, there’s more we can do. Water for People, a WEF charity of choice, helps people in developing countries ‘by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities and health and hygiene education programs’. As a water quality professional, I can relate to this mission, and you probably can, too. In the spirit of the season, please consider making a generous donation to help meet this urgent and global need and make clean water available to everyone. Meanwhile, thank you for all you do to protect public health and the environment, and very best wishes for a joyous and magical holiday season.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stormwater Management: The Future is Now

By Tyler Richards, Deputy Director of Operations, Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

Not long ago, when utility managers heard ‘stormwater management,’ they probably thought about drainage and flooding , I know I did. But managing stormwater today involves so much more, especially given its impacts on water quality and local streams. Trends related to climate change, urban sprawl, and fertilizer/pesticide use all affect stormwater management, which will play an increasing complex role in preserving and enhancing the water environment, WEF is focusing resources to meet this growing challenge.

Wastewater managers are now expanding their jurisdictions to manage stormwater. Total maximum daily loads are better defining storm water impacts in watersheds. And stormwater concerns may even impact utility permit compliance. There are huge opportunities to help water and wastewater utility managers more effectively address storm water issues, including emerging EPA initiatives on revising storm water regulations.

Past President Rebecca West and President Paul Freedman asked me to chair a new Stormwater Task Force to focus WEF resources and activities related to stormwater. I’m enthusiastic about our challenge to look at stormwater from all aspects and come up with a comprehensive plan for stormwater programming at WEF. Numerous related efforts like technical sessions, papers, workshops, and the Federation’s upcoming comments to EPA continue to attract interest and support here at WEF. We are reviewing and prioritizing all of them with an eye toward increased effectiveness while solidifying and expanding the stormwater knowledge base for water quality professionals.

EPA is considering regulatory changes that would significantly expand the reach of the stormwater permit program, and no doubt this will impact municipal managers. Those changes may also help to level the playing field to provide more equitable regulation of point and nonpoint sources of impairment. Our members need to be involved in the regulatory process, and WEF member expertise in asset and utility management will also be essential in developing and delivering programs that stormwater managers will need. We’d appreciate your feedback, so please take a moment to post a comment on stormwater needs from your perspective.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Biosolids Recycling Works for Us

By Chris Peot, P.E.
Biosolids Manager
District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, DC, recycles 1,200 tons per day of biosolids to agriculture, restoration projects, and composting production in Virginia and Maryland. Rather than sending biosolids to a landfill, recycling the nutrient-rich material to land in need of nutrients aids the environment. We, along with our colleagues in this profession, work hard every day to examine issues, conduct research, and improve techniques to ensure we are producing the highest-quality, safest product within our power.

The use of biosolids in urban settings can be misunderstood by some. Recently, there have been some negative comments about the First Family garden on the lawn of the White House, which has received some biosolids compost within the past 20 years. For the record, the tests showed approximately 90 parts per million (ppm) lead in the garden soil. Lead occurs naturally in soils up to 50 ppm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set actions levels for urban soils set at 1200 ppm for regular use and 400 ppm for children’s play areas. Lead levels of 90 ppm in the garden pose no known health risk, and are considered extremely low for an urban setting, where levels from atmospheric deposition can exceed 10,000 ppm. DC WASA biosolids contains lead levels that are considered naturally occurring and well below EPA limits for reuse, at approximately 30 ppm lead. Biosolids compost can, as researched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others (“Heavy Metals in the Environment” by Brown and others, Journal Environmental Quality, 2003, and “Biosolids Compost Amendment for Reducing Soil Lead Hazards” by Farfel and others, Science of the Total Environment, 2005) help reduce the availability of lead in urban soils, making them safer for our children.

This concept was misrepresented in an AP story last year, prompting AP to write a more balanced follow-up article, stating that the original story was “inaccurate and misleading."

Also see a more in-depth look at the inaccuracies.

Land application of biosolids helps protect the Chesapeake Bay by managing the nutrients generated in an urban setting in an environmentally sustainable manner. It is Mother Nature at work (slightly modified by mankind)—-an essential and important part of the nutrient cycle. DC WASA’s land application program employs the latest technology and research, but we continue to seek out cutting-edge solutions through research and education. For example, we are considering investing in technology to improve the product, produce energy, and reduce biosolids output. This technology would increase our options for reuse of the residual and also produce 10 megawatts of renewable energy.

DC WASA will continue to support returning nutrients and carbon to the soil from which it came, unless scientific evidence indicates we ought to move in a different direction.