EPA’s reuse leader talks national action plan

During the closing session at the American Water Works Association’s recent International Symposium on Potable Reuse in Atlanta, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s leader on water reuse told attendees a national water reuse action plan will likely be completed by the end of February.

In an hour-long interactive session with AWWA CEO David LaFrance that included audience questions, Jeff Lape, EPA’s National Program Leader for Water Reuse, emphasized that water reuse is an important tool in assuring future water security, resilience and sustainability. The National Water Reuse Action Plan aims to “institutionalize” water reuse within EPA, he said.

Lape noted in his opening remarks that AWWA published its first statement of public policy on reclaimed water nearly 50 years ago. “At the end of the day, the document we put out in September … really builds on the decades of work you all have done,” Lape said.

The two-day symposium drew attendees from 10 countries on four continents to discuss technical and communications challenges associated with potable reuse.

The National Water Reuse Action Plan is expected to cover 11 thematic areas and build on the 46 actions included in a September 2019 draft plan, Lape explained. It creates opportunities for partnerships and collaboration involving water sector partners, different levels of government and other stakeholders.

In his opening remarks, LaFrance noted that potable reuse is a growing and critical part of water resources management, and AWWA’s involvement is part of its commitment to Total Water Solutions. He noted that any water can ultimately become drinking water.

“This is one of the most exciting times to be a water professional,” LaFrance said. “We spend a lot of time talking about innovation, and I think all of you embody innovation in water.”

In announcing the draft National Water Reuse Action Plan, EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross noted that water reuse is critical for girding communities against drought and diversifying their potential water resources.

“Forty states anticipate experiencing fresh water shortages in certain regions within their borders over the next decade,” Ross said. “Diversifying our nation’s water portfolio must be a nationwide priority, and water reuse has the potential to ensure the viability of our water economy for generations to come.”

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