Roiled Waters: Water Politics in the 1990s

by Teresa Austin, Assistant Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1994, Vol. 64, Issue 7, Pg. 49-51

Document Type: Feature article


In the spring of 1994, San Diego got a reprieve from meeting the Clean Water Act's secondary-treatment requirements. For six years city officials had battled the Environmental Protection Agency in court over the merits of spending an estimated $5 billion to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities to provide secondary treatment. U.S. District Judge Rudi M. Brewster agreed with the city that scientific evidence showed the project would be a waste of money. As evidenced by San Diego's court battle, local officials and engineers are increasingly willing to fight regulations they can't afford and often don't think will work. It was easy to comply with federal laws in the 1970s and early 1980s. The government gave a city money and the city gladly did what it was told. Water quality increased and jobs were usually created for the local economy. Funding for grants had dried up by 1986 and were replaced by revolving loans that also will disappear unless funding is included in the 1994 reauthorization of the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts. Today utilities need money not only to meet regulations, but also to repair and upgrade old facilities. A recent survey from the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, and organization that represents the largest water-water treatment agencies, estimates that 97 of its member agencies will need at least $32 billion to meet secondary and advanced treatment, eliminate wet-weather problems, replace and rehabilitate sewers and pumping stations, and construct new interceptor and collector sewers.

Subject Headings: Water policy | Water quality | Sewers | Political factors | Federal government | Financing | Drinking water | Rehabilitation | California | United States

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