CWP Article Examines Integration Challenges for Wastewater, Stormwater, and Water Supply

The Center for Watershed Protection’s (CWP’s) Fall 2010 Runoff Rundown issue examines the interplay and integration challenges between stormwater, water supply, and wastewater. 

The following sad story was recounted recently by a kid on the playground:
 
“I am frustrated.  My name is Stormwater.  I have two cousins, Water Supply and Wastewater, and they don’t play with me anymore.  We have the same grandparents (named Rain and Snow), but Water Supply and Wastewater are older and more sophisticated.  I just want them to play with me.”
 
I feel Stormwater’s pain.  Earlier in my career, I held a joint position between a water and wastewater utility and a county government.  The position focused on watershed management for a drinking water reservoir, recognizing that the quality of the product (clean drinking water) had as much to do with the watershed as it did with the treatment process.  The program integrated the utility’s concern with water supply management with the county’s responsibilities for land use planning, stormwater management, and development review. …

Certainly, part of the issue has to do with the regulatory context that puts water supply, wastewater, and stormwater into their respective programmatic silos.  The structure of local government can be another issue, with drinking water and wastewater generally handled by utilities and stormwater being housed in an engineering or planning department (not withstanding a new generation of integrated utilities discussed below).
 
 WasteWater-StormWater 
Figure 1. The Regulatory & Programmatic Silos for Water Management
 
As my friend and former CWP colleague, Mike Novotney, points out, we tend to use different metrics to evaluate and manage the three systems, as described in Table 1.  These metrics are regulation and project-centric, and are not always relevant at the watershed or community scale.  Mike proposes a “water portfolio” concept to integrate water sources and needs at a watershed scale (see Novotney, 2010).
 
Table 1. Metrics for Gauging “Success” for the Three Water Management Sectors

Water Supply
·      Meet safe yield demand
·      Meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards
·      Meet minimum instream flow requirement below reservoirs

Wastewater
·      Provide treatment capacity
·      Comply with NPDES discharge permit

Stormwater
·      Match post-development to pre-development discharge
·      Treat the water quality volume
·      Comply with MS4 permit

Granted, each of the three regulatory and programmatic systems has accomplished tremendous things over the course of several decades.  But, the question must also be asked, what types of integration, efficiency, and creative management have been thwarted by the silo approach?

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