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The History and Future of Safe Drinking Water Roundtable

On December 16th (the 39th anniversary of the enactment of SDWA), the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) and the U.S. Water Alliance co-hosted a roundtable discussion to help leaders in the water sector share priorities and solutions for integrating, innovating, and sustaining management and support systems. Those is attendance included EPA officials, state organization representatives (including ASDWA), national water trade association representatives and utility leaders, Congressional staff, environmental, business, private water companies, representatives of local government, rural water systems, international water advocates, and representatives from Global Tap.

The discussion focused primarily on regulatory and infrastructure priorities and strategies, and bigger policy topics, such as the price of water, the intersection of public access and private finance, and international relief efforts.  The following are highlights of the conversation:

  • Building the technical, managerial, and financial capacity of small water systems continues to be a daunting collective challenge, given the demographics of the water industry in the U.S.
  • Innovative and cost-effective water treatment technologies can play an important role in meeting these various challenges.
  • Both “green” and “grey” innovative solutions are needed to address our infrastructure challenges as well as to protect sources of drinking water.
  • Water reuse will likely be an increasingly prominent issue and challenge in the years ahead.
  • Water sector resiliency is needed in the face of all hazards emergencies and increasingly extreme weather.
  • An understanding of the energy-water nexus needs to be factored into the way we do business.
  • Effective ongoing public education and outreach are needed to convey the value of water and thus garner public support for clean and safe water.

Duke University Law Professor James Salzman gave the keynote and discussed his new book, Drinking Water: A History (2012).  Professor Salzman traced the historic roots of the provision of safe drinking water to growing populations and the philosophical debates over drinking water as a commodity versus drinking water as a public good that should remain relatively cheap.