Report: Multi-Agency Water Reuse Programs: Lessons for Successful Collaboration — The National Reuse Action Plan and WaterReuse

Click the link to read the report on the EPA website. Here’s the executive summary:

Collaboration is the gateway to greatness. Recycled water can be a safe and reliable water supply, but to develop it the agencies responsible for managing water, wastewater, and stormwater must work together. In the United States, this type of cooperation is inhibited by the challenge of aligning missions and allocating responsibilities and costs among separate organizations. Collaboration is also complicated by complex regulations, operational details, and a utility’s natural inclination to maintain independent control of all projects within their jurisdictions.

Recycling wastewater effluent, stormwater, and other impaired sources is an essential element of an integrated, resilient, and sustainable water supply. However, the dominant institutional arrangements in the United States (and most other nations) today constitute a patchwork approach to water resource management. Water utilities and wastewater agencies created years ago in response to historical needs now operate as distinct entities, each with its own legal mandate, service area, professional staff, management team and personality, governance and public oversight structure, regulatory and technological challenges, and financial and economic constraints. While these institutions were well-suited to solve last century’s water problems, they are less able to address today’s challenges that require integrated water management—including water reuse.

Despite this fragmented institutional landscape, many agencies have found ways to work together to create successful regional water reuse programs. By focusing on their common interests and forging durable working agreements, they have joined together to create “virtual” water utilities adding recycled water to their portfolio of supplies to complete the water cycle and achieve greater resilience for their communities. While the challenges are great, these examples of successful partnerships around the United States offer many important lessons.

The National Water Reuse Action Plan Action Item 2.16 was initiated to support the development of multi-agency water reuse programs by identifying “challenges, opportunities and models for interagency collaboration.” This project consists of 1) a framework for evaluating interagency relationships in the water sector (including an annotated bibliography); 2) five case studies of multi-agency reuse projects in the United States; and 3) a summary of “lessons learned,” references, and exercises to help agencies develop more productive collaborations.

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