EPA proposes update of affordability guidance AWWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) jointly applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release this week of its proposed 2020 Financial Capability Assessment for Clean Water Act Obligations. EPA’s new document importantly incorporates key elements from a report developed jointly by AWWA, NACWA and WEF in 2019. The three organizations continue to work together to review the draft guidance. Comments will be due within 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. U.S. lawmakers plan for temporary federal funding extension U.S. federal lawmakers have agreed in principle on a continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels and avoid a government shutdown when this fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Under a CR, federal programs are funded at the previous year’s levels. There are still a few details to be worked out between the House and Senate, including an expiration date for the stopgap funding. Senate Republicans have proposed Dec. 18, but House Democrats may seek to push the extension into early next year. Lawmakers will also need to determine which, if any, programs need additional funding above current levels. AWWA expects a deal to come together before the end of the month and will continue to monitor negotiations. 2021 Fly-In to be an online event To protect public health during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, AWWA’s annual Water Matters! Fly-In will be an online event in April 2021. Holding the event virtually will maintain the direct connection between AWWA members and the representatives and senators serving them in the U.S. Congress, while observing social distancing recommendations. AWWA is targeting the week of April 26 to schedule virtual meetings with members of Congress. AWWA’s government affairs staff will provide issue briefs prior to the event. There will be a debriefing and “lessons learned” webinar the week after the event. AWWA’s Fly-In typically occurs in the spring and brings about 150 members to Washington, D.C., to meet directly with their members of Congress. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout hampering face-to-face meetings and many employers’ travel policies, AWWA still felt it was important to provide a forum for grassroots activism on behalf of the drinking water community,” said AWWA’s Executive Director of Government Affairs Tracy Mehan. “A new U.S. Congress will be seated in January, and a new presidential term will begin. This will make the 2021 Fly-In a particularly influential one.” For more information, contact AWWA government affairs staff members Tommy Holmes , Nate Norris or Patty Chism . Forest bond program can aid utilities in fire protection As part of an effort to mitigate fire risk through restoration, the U.S. Forest Service has recently launched the Innovative Finance for National Forests Grant Program , a funding program that creates a new opportunity for collaboration between water utilities and land managers in the pursuit of healthy landscapes. It features a Forest Resilience Bond (FRB), a public-private investment partnership. Developed by Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute , the FRB is designed to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration, fire risk reduction and watershed protection on public lands. The first FRB was launched in partnership with AWWA member Yuba Water Agency in 2018, and more projects are in the pipeline across the western United States. More information about the FRB is available in a short video or by contacting Blue Forest. Blue Forest is offering to work with water utilities on protecting water supply infrastructure and shielding communities from the growing risk of catastrophic wildfire. As seen in the news, wildfires are burning across the West at an unprecedented rate , impacting utilities and communities on both professional and personal levels. Water supplies and infrastructure are threatened by these catastrophic events. There is scientific consensus that proactive forest restoration, such as ecological forest thinning and prescribed burning, can help reduce wildfire risk and severity while ensuring community health, avoided costs and protected water supplies. A lack of funding is generally cited as impeding action. Although many utilities do not own or manage their source water areas, they can be a meaningful part of the solution by partnering with the U.S. Forest Service, other land managers and downstream beneficiaries to ensure resources are available. Researchers developing lead model for water utilities The research team for Water Research Foundation Project (#4965) , Development of a Community-Based Lead Risk and Mitigation Model, is creating a model to help water utilities and individuals mitigate lead hazards from drinking water. In order to estimate the amount of lead in water that customers consume, researchers are collecting composite water samples from consumers by having them set aside a portion of water every time they use the faucet for potable reasons (drinking, cooking, etc.). Researchers are pairing this information with the level of lead found in the utility first-liter sample used for LCR compliance monitoring. If you’re interested in assisting this project, researchers can supply bottles, instructions and lead analysis. Contact Nancy McTigue at Cornwell Engineering Group for more information. Researchers seek utility input on public health issues A research team at Wayne State University is soliciting water utility experiences with community water disruptions and disasters that impact public health, The study, funded by a research program through the National Science Foundation, is part of an effort to explore the critical interdependencies among public health and complex water systems. Known as Water and Health Infrastructure, Resilience, and Learning ( WHIRL ), the project aims to understand how water and public health agencies can enhance resilience. Utilities are asked to complete a short survey as part of the project. Results will remain confidential and will be used to assist efforts to improve community resiliency.