What would you most like our readers to know about NACWA’s agenda at the Winter Conference, which puts a spotlight on the growing list of regulatory mandates facing clean water agencies?
What NACWA has attempted to do is highlight something that they’ve been working on for a couple years: the Money Matters Campaign. There’s a growing list of regulatory mandates and it becomes difficult and, to some extent, unaffordable for some communities to fund all of the mandates. The idea behind our conference and the Money Matters campaign is to talk about some of these regulatory issues and how to prioritize them to get the most benefit out of the money spent. Issues such as nutrients, the integration of wastewater and stormwater, and green infrastructure, and how these all fit together in a greater planning effort.
“Policy by consent decree” is not a good approach. Policy should be developed by a thoughtful process that considers all aspects of the goal of protecting the public health and the environment (i.e., net environmental benefit, site-specific issues, the law, affordability, reasonable time frames, etc.). During the last decade or so, policy often gets set by consent decree; i.e., whatever was negotiated in the last consent decree becomes the new bar and the new “policy” the regulators tend to follow.
The idea is that if you look at things on a watershed basis, looking at stormwater and wastewater and green infrastructure, and you prioritize, then within the existing regulatory framework we can get a better bang for your buck rather than policy by consent decree.
EPA’s Integrated Planning Approach is getting a lot of attention. What is NACWA’s position on how the proposed policy will affect your members?
NACWA supports the proposed policy. We think it’s a good thing, although certainly there are some questions about it. One thing that I thought was interesting, that came out of a Washington, D.C., workshop, was that the stakeholders, almost unanimously, felt that a permit approach was a good vehicle for integrated planning, as opposed to a consent decree.
As a utility manager yourself, what’s your view of the potential impacts of the policy, and what are the most challenging issues you see ahead?
Looking at the possibility of nutrient regulations on the horizon, plus all the ongoing regulations that we’re currently operating under, I think it’s a good approach. One thing that was suggested at the D.C. workshop was that perhaps the EPA should just go out and do it. Find case studies and go out and do it. And I was thinking that perhaps EBMUD’s service area would be a good case study on our wet weather issues.
So I think the regulatory community is cautiously saying, yeah we support this, but the issue is what does it actually look like? EPA was very clear that it has to fit within the existing Clean Water Act, that there won’t be material changes to those regulations.
What’s NACWA’s outlook for 2012 as it relates to the issues you are spearheading for members and activities planned?
NACWA, like most associations, has a strategic plan. Not surprisingly, this strategic plan revolves around sound science and legislative, regulatory advocacy, protection of the environment, and service to its membership. One of the biggest things that the NACWA membership is supporting is the concept of Money Matters. That’s probably the biggest push that NACWA has.
We’re also very focused on better outreach to our members, so the board has just authorized significant funding to bring our communication technologies into the 21st century with social media, etc. For example, we’ve gone to paperless board packets, a website where NACWA members can talk to each other about issues in real time, those types of things that are really quite beneficial to the membership.
What motivated you to step up to the NACWA presidency and what do you most hope to accomplish?
I’ve always liked to get involved in things and multiple things at a time. I’m a person who, a lot of times, has trouble saying no. But I thoroughly enjoy the camaraderie of colleagues and peers across the country, sharing great experiences and really trying to do things that are in the best interests of the public and ratepayers. It’s a challenge, it’s a lot of fun and it’s a huge networking resource.
Now I have a network across the entire country. I can, on almost any issue in any part of the country, call up people I know to talk to. There’s a personal satisfaction associated with the work.
So what’s after the NACWA presidency for you?
Before NACWA, I was involved in more local organizations, including CASA. I don’t know. I look back and I was involved with CWEA, Tri-Tac, BACWA and the CASA board of directors before NACWA … I wouldn’t say you wear out your welcome, but there’s just an opportunity to do something and then you move on, and let other people have a shot at it.
I’ll probably move on to something else; I’m not exactly sure what. But let other folks, very capable folks, move into the position on the board.
What career advice would you give to the next generation of engineers?
I would say that they should look broadly in terms of their careers, and to be open to any number of opportunities. If you find that you really like one thing, that’s great, but be open to options, whether it be working in public sector or private sector, doing really detailed technical stuff or doing more management-type stuff. Getting involved with professional organizations is very rewarding.
Our industry offers a huge amount of possibility, and I would encourage students to get involved and avail themselves of those opportunities in what I think is a very rewarding career. And certainly not just think of it as a job and a paycheck, but be open to all the possibilities.
In hindsight, you look at how you make career decisions, and I think that our high schools and our colleges are woefully inadequate in counseling students and parents of what might be a good career. Even though I’d like to see more career guidance in our educational system, I really lucked out and chose a profession that I thoroughly enjoy. It’s been a very satisfying career for me. I encourage others to enter the environmental field.
What do you do for fun?
When I do have some free time, I like to hit a little white ball around a beautiful green pasture. I’ve taken several trips to Ireland and Scotland, England, Spain, Wales. I play with three buddies of mine, and we’re on a mission of checking off the top 100 golf courses in the world. I think, collectively, we’ve done about 35, but we’ll never get to a hundred.