U.S. infrastructure negotiations continue The U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives finished work on its portion of a massive budget reconciliation package this week, proposing $30 billion for lead service line replacement, in addition to funding the authorized spending in the bipartisan infrastructure package negotiated by centrist senators and President Joe Biden. That bipartisan package is H.R. 3684 . Both measures are expected to be considered by the full House before the end of this month. If the House passes and funds the bipartisan infrastructure package, the drinking water state revolving loan fund program would receive more than $11 billion over the next five years, nearly double its current funding level. Other water-related programs – addressing cybersecurity, resilience and sustainability, and lead remediation in small communities and schools – would also see major funding boosts. House and Senate leadership still have a needle to thread in convincing moderates to support a massive reconciliation plan and progressives to support a bipartisan package, but negotiations are progressing, and it appears both are likely to become law in some form. EPA rescinds guidance on Clean Water Act permits The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that it rescinded a guidance document on Clean Water Act permit requirements that were issued during the Trump Administration. EPA said the document “reduced clean water protections by creating a new factor for determining if a discharge of pollution from a point source through groundwater that reaches a water of the United States is the ‘functional equivalent’ of a direct discharge to such water.” The agency went on to say, “The addition of that factor skewed the ‘functional equivalent’ analysis in a way that could reduce the number of discharges requiring a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The agency is rescinding this guidance upon determining that this additional factor is inconsistent with the Clean Water Act and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund.” The document in question is known as “Applying the Supreme Court’s County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund Decision in the Clean Water Act Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program.” In April 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of County of Maui vs. Hawaii Wildlife Fund that said a NPDES permit is required if the addition of pollutants through groundwater is equivalent to a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters. The question before the court was whether an NPDES permit was required for releases of pollutants from a point source to a jurisdictional water via groundwater. Report explores collaborative approach to cyber oversight To stimulate discussion on how the water sector can best advance implementation of cybersecurity measures and mitigate threats, AWWA’s Water Utility Council (WUC) commissioned a report exploring potential industry-led regulatory options to support water sector cyber resilience. One of the options, for example, would be the creation of industry-wide cyber standards with oversight from a federal body, as exists within the energy sector. The author of the report is Dr. Paul Stockton, a prominent cybersecurity expert who previously served as assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs. Comments on this approach or alternatives should be sent to Kevin Morley , AWWA federal relations manager. The WUC is actively discussing cybersecurity threats and challenges facing the water sector. Such discussions have included a review of multiple needs based on findings from a survey conducted by the Water Sector Coordinating Council that will help guide advocacy effort. Following multiple cyber incidents over the past year, there has been a great deal of discussion about the need for increased oversight and accountability for cybersecurity. There are a range of options that run from voluntary measures to self-certification to direct federal mandates. Control systems, cybersecurity get stronger focus We expect to see the White House or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) soon begin reaching out directly to water and wastewater utilities, especially large systems and those serving federal installations, about cybersecurity and control systems. Following recent high-profile cybersecurity incidents, the White House in July released its National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems , outlining a plan to promote industrial control system (ICS) security in critical infrastructure sectors. Among its goals is to urge the electricity, pipeline, water and wastewater, and chemical sectors to voluntarily deploy technologies to collect and share ICS monitoring data. This “ICS Initiative” has already begun with the electricity and pipeline sectors, with providers utilizing various device and platforms for collecting and sharing their data. Questions of cost, technology and government access to the information collected have arisen - questions members of the water sector should consider collectively. Therefore, utilities contacted by the government about the ICS Initiative are encouraged to contact Kevin Morley , AWWA federal relations manager. The memorandum also directs DHS to collaborate with other federal agencies to develop minimum voluntary performance goals for all critical infrastructure sectors. Initial cross-sector goals are to be released Wednesday, and the final list must be completed within one year. The department is required to issue sector-specific cybersecurity goals in consultation with EPA and other relevant agencies, within the same one-year time frame. Both sets of goals are considered only guidance. Sector risk management agencies, such as EPA, have been tasked with helping their sectors comply with the policies and goals developed under the memo. New survey: customers confident in drinking water A recently released survey sponsored by AWWA and administered by Morning Consult shows that drinking water customers served by a utility remain confident in the safety (74%) and quality (68%) of their drinking water. While more than 7 in 10 (71%) of survey respondents were also satisfied with their tap water overall, satisfaction was lower than in a similar 2020 survey. Respondents who recall receiving a communication other than a bill from their utility provided considerably higher ratings on these metrics (8-11 points), showing the value and promise of outreach efforts. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) respondents were willing to pay more for service improvements. The study included a statistically representative 1,889 adults in the United States served by a water utility. More information about the survey can be found in the AWWA Connections article, the presentation and the webpage dedicated to the survey. WaterSense explores affordability, water savings In its new report “ Assistance that Saves ,” EPA’s WaterSense program – along with WaterSense partnering organizations – details how water efficiency programs and financial assistance programs can work together to best meet customers’ needs. The report details how utilities and partners have identified customers in need of efficiency upgrades to help reduce their bills and discusses leak repair programs, coordination with other services, and case studies. This complements other EPA affordability-related materials, such as its compendium of drinking water and wastewater assistance programs . Webinar focuses on stormwater financing EPA’s Water Finance Center will host its third webinar on funding and financing stormwater infrastructure at 2-3 p.m. ET Tuesday. Speakers will include representatives from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, OptiRTC and PowerCorps PHL. Advance registration is recommended and is available online . AWWA declaring Sept. 26-Oct. 2 'Source Water Protection Week' AWWA invites water utilities, Sections and other partners to join the Association in declaring Sept. 26-Oct. 2 the first-ever “ Source Water Protection Week .” Throughout the week, AWWA will be raising awareness about the importance of caring for drinking water sources. A Source Water Protection Week toolkit is now available, and new resources will continue to be added between now and Sept. 26. As part of Source Water Protection Week, AWWA is hosting a #ShowYourSource social media contest. Kicking off Sept. 26, members and others are urged to post photos or short videos on social media using the hashtag #ShowYourSource showcasing source water.