Updates to the National Pretreatment Program’s list of priority pollutants would help ensure that water reuse facilities and de facto reuse operations are protected from potentially hazardous contaminants. The National Pretreatment Program has led to significant reductions in the concentrations of toxic chemicals in wastewater and the environment. However, the list of 129 priority pollutants presently regulated by the National Pretreatment Program has not been updated since its development more than three decades ago, even though the nation’s inventory of manufactured chemicals has expanded considerably since that time, as has our understanding of their significance. Updates to the National Pretreatment Program’s priority pollutant list can be accomplished through existing rulemaking processes. Until this can be accomplished, EPA guidance on priority chemicals to include in local pretreatment programs would assist utilities implementing potable reuse.
Enhanced public knowledge of water supply and treatment are important to informed decision making. The public, decision makers, and decision influencers (e.g., members of the media) need access to credible scientific and technical materials on water reuse to help them evaluate proposals and frame the issues. A general investment in water knowledge, including improved public understanding of a region’s available water supplies and the full costs and benefits associated with water supply alternatives, could lead to more efficient processes that evaluate specific projects. Public debate on water reuse is evolving and maturing as more projects are implemented and records of implementation are becoming available.
The committee identified 14 water reuse research priorities that are not currently being addressed in a major way. These research priorities in the areas of health, social, and environmental issues and performance and quality assurance (detailed in Chapter 11, Box 11-1) hold significant potential to advance the safe, reliable, and cost-effective reuse of municipal wastewater where traditional sources are inadequate.
Improved coordination among federal and non-federal entities is important for addressing the long-term research needs related to water reuse. Addressing the research needs identified by the committee will require the involvement of several federal agencies as well as support from nongovernmental research organizations. If the federal government decides to develop national regulations for water reuse, a more robust research effort will be needed to support that initiative with enhanced coordination among federal and nonfederal entities. Such an effort would benefit from the leadership of a single federal agency, which could serve as the primary entity for coordination of research and for information dissemination.
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Solutions to the nation’s water challenges will require an array of approaches, involving conservation, supplemented as needed by alternative water supply technologies, such as reuse. Both potable and nonpotable reuse can increase the nation’s water supply, although nonpotable reuse can be more expensive in existing communities that are not already equipped with dual water distribution systems. With recent advances in technology and treatment design, potable reuse can reduce the concentrations of chemical and microbial contaminants to levels comparable to or lower than those present in many drinking water supplies. Adjustments to the federal regulatory framework, including scientifically supportable risk-based regulations for nonpotable reuse and modifications to the structure or implementation of the SDWA for potable reuse projects, would ensure a high level of public health protection for both planned and de facto reuse and increase public confidence in water reuse. Additionally, improved coordination among federal and nonfederal entities could more effectively address key research needs.