Congress includes AWWA drinking water protection requests in final Farm Bill Congress on Wednesday afternoon passed and sent to President Trump for his signature a five-year Farm Bill that contains virtually all AWWA’s requests to strengthen the protection of drinking water sources through conservation programs. The bill, H.R. 2 or the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 , mandates that 10 percent of the funds authorized for conservation programs must be used for projects protecting sources of drinking water. This will amount to an astonishing $4 billion over 10 years to such projects! In addition, it makes source water protection a specific goal of conservation, increases incentives for agricultural producers to implement practices that benefit source water protection, and authorizes community water systems to work with state technical committees for agricultural programs to identify local priority areas for source water protection. Another key feature is increased authorized funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to $300 million a year, plus some streamlining of program administrative processes. The RCPP, as the name implies, authorizes partnerships among agricultural producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and non-agricultural entities, such as water utilities. The Senate passed a House-Senate conference report – a compromise piece of legislation between slightly different versions of the bill – by a 87-13 vote on Tuesday. The House passed the conference report 369-47 Wednesday. The administrative language to the bill’s conservation title places an emphasis on source water protection throughout the title. Key players advocating for source water protection in the bill’s deliberations included Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio ; Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. ; and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio . AWWA’s Water Utility Council (WUC) made improvement of source water protection in the Farm Bill a priority about two years ago. Grassroots volunteers of AWWA also got into the effort, primarily by approaching their members of Congress at the annual spring Water Matters! Fly-Ins. The WUC utilized the Water Industry Technical Action Fund to retain the services of the consulting firm 9b, which specializes in agricultural policy via the expertise of former top-level staffers at USDA and the House agricultural committee. Staff made the rounds on Capitol Hill to negotiate and press the issue. In parallel to all of this, AWWA Government Affairs has conducted educational outreach efforts on the RCPP, then assisted some member utilities in applying for grants under the RCPP program. Three projects sponsored by utilities did receive USDA grants last year. House Democrats name committee chairmen for 116th Congress Beginning Jan. 3, Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. This week, House Democrats named chairs to lead committees as part of that majority. There were no major surprises on the list. It appears that all current ranking minority members will be elevated in January. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, will lead the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Recently, Pallone has focused on affordability and lead in drinking water. He authored portions of America’s Water Infrastructure Act providing funds to test for lead in schools and previously introduced legislation giving disadvantaged communities a leg-up in the state revolving loan process. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN, will take the gavel in the Committee on Agriculture. Peterson was a major advocate for AWWA’s priorities during Farm Bill negotiations and ultimately helped push the bill over the finish line this month. He will be a key player in overseeing the bill’s implementation and conservation programs going forward. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., will serve as chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. DeFazio led the effort this year to produce a $1 trillion counterproposal to the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan. He has clearly stated that a major infrastructure bill will be a prime focus for his committee in the 116th Congress. Research Foundation names Grevatt as CEO The Water Research Foundation this week announced that Peter Grevatt will become its chief executive officer in February. As reported in the previous Insider, Grevatt is about to retire from a 30-year career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is currently director of the agency’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water , a position he has held since October 2012. Grevatt will be replacing Robert Renner, who is retiring after leading the foundation since 2005. During Renner’s tenure, the foundation broadened its scope from drinking water research to research affecting the whole water sector. Last January, the Water Research Foundation merged with the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation. EPA, Corps propose new 'waters of U.S.' rule EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday issued a proposed definition of “ waters of the United States ” under the Clean Water Act and quickly drew strong praise from some quarters and threats of lawsuits from others. The issue appears far from settled . Look for pitched debates in Congress in addition to the potential lawsuits. The latest proposal is designed to encompass fewer bodies of water than the standard issued during President Obama’s administration. The Trump administration says the proposed definition will provide “clarity, consistency and predictability” to defining waters under federal jurisdiction. EPA and the Corps will accept public comment for 60 days on the proposal after publication in The Federal Register. They have scheduled a webcast explaining the proposal for Jan. 10 and a listening session in Kansas City, Kan., for Jan. 23. New Effective Utility Management resources available The Effective Utility Management (EUM) program, a partnership among EPA, AWWA and several other water sector organizations, has released two new resources for utilities utilizing the EUM framework and working through the process within the EUM Primer document. A set of case studies discuss the different processes that five utilities used to set up a program using the EUM framework. Information includes the results of each process and helpful information for other utilities. A handbook titled “ Moving Toward Sustainability ” provides utilities with examples of practices that can help with a self-assessment and self-improvement roadmap consistent with EUM practices. Utilities are encouraged to take advantage of these free resources. SASB issues disclosure standards for water sector The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has issued final disclosure standards in 77 different sectors. Among these is “ Water Utilities and Services ,” covering both drinking water and wastewater utilities. SASB is a nonprofit organization not affiliated with the similarly-named Governmental Accounting Standards Board. It developed these standards to help investors assess various metrics related to sustainability. The standards are not ANSI accredited or consensus-based. AWWA participated in the process by providing comments on the first draft, rules of procedure, process and second draft. Plan now to describe corrosion control in CCR In a recent edition of the Insider, we discussed the provisions of S. 3021, America’s Water Infrastructure Act , that will require EPA to develop a rule for utilities to provide Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) at least biannually, and improve the clarity, accuracy and other provisions of CCRs by October 2020. Since that rule has not yet been written, the exact requirements and timing are unclear. However, one CCR provision requires utilities to discuss their corrosion control efforts within the report, a requirement added separately from the requirement for EPA to create a rule revision. As a best practice of informing customers, utilities may wish to start including information about their corrosion control efforts in their upcoming CCRs, if they do not do so already. EPA briefs advisory council on priorities for 2019 Senior staff from EPA’s Office of Water told the agency’s Drinking Water Advisory Council that publishing the long-awaited Long-Term Lead and Copper Rule was a priority not only for Administrator Andrew Wheeler but for the White House as well. EPA is working on two key rule concepts: targeting requirements to locations with higher observed lead levels and integrating a “find-and-fix” framework akin to that used in the Revised Total Coliform Rule. Agency staff addressed several other regulatory issues before the advisory panel. EPA is awaiting court approval for more time to publish a perchlorate proposal. The Natural Resources Defense Council, a plaintiff in a perchlorate case, has said an extension of the current deadline to April 30 was acceptable. Promulgation of a final rule implementing the lead-free standard established in the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act continues to be expected this year. In addition to developing new regulations, EPA is developing a program to improve compliance with existing regulations. EPA will work with states to reduce community water system health-based standard violations by 25% in 2019. The initial focus of this activity will be on compliance with disinfection byproducts (DBP) standards. A special emphasis is being placed on consecutive systems, as some of these systems find maintaining DBP rule compliance particularly challenging. Staff at EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) is also planning to shift gears in 2019. There is an officewide shift toward emphasizing compliance assistance. Importantly, given the success of past efforts to improve compliance under the Clean Water Act, OECA anticipates shifting toward a greater focus on Safe Drinking Water Act compliance. Senior OECA staff indicated a Federal Register notice taking comment on this new emphasis will be forthcoming in January. Assessment examines impacts of climate change The fourth National Climate Assessment recently issued by the Trump administration includes input from more than 200 experts and incorporates hundreds of sources. It discusses the science of climate change (primarily through last year’s document on the scientific basis ) and anticipated effects for numerous sectors. Information that could be most relevant to the water sector are chapters on water , built environment and urban systems , human health , sector interactions and a series of chapters on regional effects.