1) PFAS Regulation
Five to ten years ago, lead was in the headlines everywhere due to the Flint Crisis. While lead piping is still a concern in many municipalities, PFAS contamination is starting to leak its way into household nomenclature and into the front words. The new EPA head Michael Regan recently addressed PFAS as the top priority in chemicals policy. Among EPA goals is to pursue limits on industrial discharge of PFAS into water, which North Carolina has done, and they will also look into regulations on air emissions from PFAS incineration. “I can commit to you that on day one that this is and will be a priority for this administration to set limits on how much of this chemical compound is entering into our air and our water,” Regan said. Lawsuits also abound, filed not by residents, but by water districts and municipalities that seek compensation from companies like 3M and DuPont for the cleanup and treatment of its synthetic chemicals. In a recent case, Wolverine, which is most famous for its work boots and other footwear products, forked over $113M to the state of Michigan.
2) The Colorado River Basin
The Colorado River watershed serves everywhere from its eponymous state to Southern Missouri. Now, it’s drying up. Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which regulate the watershed and its supply, are operating at 40% capacity.
3) Help For Rural Communities
While some rural communities and farmlands successfully operate on private wells, many have older municipal systems, and lack the funding for a smooth operation for their water and sewage systems. Regan and the EPA discussed investing in water quality first, but also infrastructure that makes good water quality and sewage treatment possible. The lack of this can turn away residents and businesses, leading to further decay of the communities in other areas.
4) Mass Aging Of Dams
What do dams have to do with water quality, and how it this a water story to watch in 2021? Turns out…a lot. Dams help hold reservoirs in place and provide humans the ability to regulate watersheds, and therefore, the quality of the water itself. But mother nature doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. Dam building was extremely popular in the early- to mid-20th century, but the need for more dams in recent decades – and the funding that provides care for their upkeep – has all but dried up and become an afterthought. Poorly maintained dams carry many risks, including declining capacity to store water due to sediment buildup, blocking fish migration, and danger of total collapse. Several dam failures over the years have led to major environmental hazards.
5) Pandemic Fallout
A major pandemic, and the economic fallout that comes with it, will most certainly affect priorities when it comes to drinking water infrastructure. Communities could stand to sink from further degradation as funds are allocated to other areas, and, likewise, the crisis could lead to calls to invest in utility services and infrastructure that could make the water coming from your tap less of a risk. With the nature of the current crisis being of the health variety, there is optimism that governments and other outside agencies will prioritize water quality as part of its new plans for safer health and living habits.
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