Federal, state, and local regulatory programs are increasingly impacting businesses and projects that rely on water resources. The U.S. ZAG-S&W Team has direct expertise in many of the key issues currently being addressed by Congress and the agencies, including the scope of federal jurisdiction to protect headwaters, source waters and rain-dependent streams. Our lawyers have been instrumental in the development of this policy over the past decade, including in Congress, in the U.S. Supreme Court, and before the EPA.
We have advised on Congress’s proposed legislation in response to the January 2014 contamination of Charleston, West Virginia’s drinking water supply by chemical releases from above ground tanks. We have also provided counsel in relation to the EPA’s regulations governing nutrient runoff controls, regulating large-scale agricultural operations, electric generating power plant cooling water systems and emerging contaminants of concern such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
The necessary investment in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, estimated to require more than $300 billion in capital improvements by 2030, demands innovative approaches to financing.
Not only do we stand at the forefront of vital regulation and innovative financing techniques, but we are also involved in landmark disputes before the U.S. Supreme Court. These involve allocation of water between states, and federal water quality programs, and include New Mexico v. Arizona, Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, and Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council.
Integrated Water Resources Management
Although businesses in most of the United States historically have enjoyed ready access to abundant fresh water resources, water supplies throughout much of the country increasingly are facing the combined threats of rapid population growth, expanding development, agricultural pollution and drought. As development rates and electricity demands parallel population growth, water use has escalated and water quality has deteriorated. Global climate change is impacting natural water flows and the availability of water resources through a greater frequency of extreme weather events, which contribute both to periodic flooding and drought.
Local jurisdictions are grappling with how to protect water supplies in the context of population and development growth, climate change, and limited economic resources. Legal strategies are needed to ensure adequate water quality and quantity to sustain natural ecosystems, economic growth, and human health and prosperity. Most jurisdictions simply do not have the regulatory and legal infrastructure necessary to address the coming era of increased demand and uncertainty of supply.
Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is a multidisciplinary strategy that is gaining momentum among water resources experts. IWRM aims to improve the efficiency and sustainability of water resource management through a holistic approach that engages various stakeholders. The implementation of IWRM requires an understanding of both the rights and the obligations of the stakeholders, and the establishment of a legal framework for enforcing those rights and obligations.
IWRM may be implemented at various levels of government and applied to a variety of water sources, such as stormwater and groundwater, freshwater and coastal water, multijurisdictional watersheds, or land and water management. Water Resources Management Plans hold the potential for integration of stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water regulation at the local-government level, and now are considered “best practices” for local jurisdictions.
ZAG-S&W and its strategic partners assist businesses and municipalities to achieve Clean Water Act and local regulatory objectives more efficiently by identifying overlapping and competing requirements of separate stormwater and wastewater programs. We offer an interdisciplinary approach bringing both legal and engineering expertise as a means of allowing businesses and local governments to achieve sustainable and comprehensive solutions at the nexus of stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater management. We combine an intimate familiarity with existing federal regulations, enforcement policies, and compliance schedules with innovative solutions that synthesize wastewater and stormwater management activities in a way that optimizes cost-effectiveness and environmental quality.