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April 2015

Revised TSCA Reform Bill Approved by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros

 

At long last, with a 15-5 bipartisan vote, a Senate bill that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) moved out of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.  Notwithstanding continuing objections from Senator Boxer, the bill that came out of the committee contained a host of changes from the original bill that were intended to address concerns that had been raised by democrats, environmental and public health advocates and U.S. EPA.

Several of these key changes include:

Continue reading "Revised TSCA Reform Bill Approved by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee" »

Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 24 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

How did NASA astronaut Scott Kelly give the world some "perspective" on Earth Day this year?

Scott Kelly, who is spending a year aboard the International Space Station, posted his first "geography quiz" photo on Earth Day. He plans to tweet a photo taken from the station of an undisclosed location on the planet every Wednesday and invite viewers to guess what it depicts.  Follow him @StationCDRKelly.


Earth Day 2015 Campaign—Earth Day Celebrations: Earth Day Texas 2015

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

Today marks the start of Earth Day Texas, an annual, three-day festival held in Dallas’s Fair Park that seeks to elevate environmental awareness and influence the way Texans think, live, and work.  This is the five-year anniversary of the Earth Day Texas organization. The festival features speakers, music, and interactive exhibits. Of interest is the “Eco-Expo,” the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to environmental stewardship, and the first-ever “Eco-Conference,” a day of programming specifically designed to engage business, civic, and community leaders in conversations about building a sustainable future.

For more information, visit the website here.

Earth Day 2015: New U.S. Treasury Paper Builds on Momentum for Public-Private Partnerships to Address Public Infrastructure Shortfalls

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza

 

The problem of aging public infrastructure in the U.S. and around the world is well recognized.  For example, U.S. businesses pay $27 billion in additional freight costs because of the poor conditions of roads and other transportation infrastructure. Water systems continue to deteriorate throughout the United States, resulting in approximately 240,000 water main breaks each year with associated property damage and repair costs.  The increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events associated with climate change puts additional strain on public infrastructure.  To address these challenges, President Obama has been particularly active in this area.  He launched his Build America Investment Initiative in July 2014, and, earlier this year, he proposed Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds, among other ideas, to spur investment in public infrastructure.

Building on this momentum, on Earth Day this year, the U.S. Treasury released a White Paper titled “Expanding the Market for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships: Alternative Risk and Profit Sharing Approaches to Align Sponsor and Investor Interests.”  The paper presents three incentive structures for public-private partnership contracts that can potentially benefit both public sector sponsors, by delivering higher quality per dollar, and private investors, by generating attractive returns.  The paper also includes an overview on public-private partnership deals closed between April 2012 and April 2015, along with their incentive structure.

A lot of the exciting action on public-private partnerships to address public infrastructure shortfalls continues to happen at the city level, with significant assistance from social entrepreneurs and foundations.  For example, the RE.invest Initiative, backed by re:focus partners, is a unique collaboration among eight partner cities and engineering, law, and finance firms to create new public-private partnerships for resilient infrastructure.  It recently released its report, “A Roadmap for Resilience,” which details the collaboration and provides recommendations for government officials, developers, financiers, and communities engaged in investing in resilience and reinvesting in communities.  Another city-focused effort is 100 Resilient Cities, backed by the Rockefeller Foundation.  Cities selected for the program receive funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer; assistance in developing a resilience strategy; and access to a platform of innovative private and public sector tools to help design and implement that strategy.


Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 23 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

1. Alphabetically, what are the second three states with OSHA-approved State Plans? Connecticut, Hawaii, and Illinois. See the full list here.

2. The following provision is known as what?

"Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

The General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970).


Earth Day 2015: Earth Day Celebrations — Earthday Vietnam 2015

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

This past weekend in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City hosted only its second “Earthday Vietnam” event, following the country's first-ever event last year. The theme for this year’s event was “More Exercises, More Eco-Friendly,” which was meant to inspire the public to be more motivated and to pick up wholesome hobbies. The day featured activities like the “Green Run,” where runners dodged obstacles made from recycled materials like old tires, and the “Crazy Dance,” a flash mob featuring thousands of participants.

A press release and photos of the event are available here.


Earth Day 2015: Safer Chemicals: Protecting Employees and the Earth at the Same Time

Kenney_Anne_COLORBy Andi S. Kenney

 

Chemicals, natural and synthetic, are all around us.  We can’t live life without them--and we wouldn’t want to.  But some chemicals are toxic to humans and the flora and fauna with which we share the earth.   Replacing toxic substances found in the workplace, distributed in commerce and contained in wastes with less harmful materials protects employees, consumers and the environment at the same time.  Safe Chemical and Green Chemistry initiatives seek to do just that.

OSHA estimates that each year more than 190,000 employees become ill and 50,000 die as a result of chemical exposures.  Environmental and health and safety regulations restrict only a small percentage of the chemicals in use.  Active chemical management systems designed to minimize or eliminate chemical hazards by finding safer alternatives can have a significant impact on employee health.  Employers have often found that switching to safer chemicals reduces costs by reducing employee absences, medical expenses, disposal costs, and sometimes material costs.  Additional benefits often include greater efficiencies and/or performance, improved employee morale and the benefits associated with being an industry leader and socially responsible employer.

OSHA has developed a tool kit to help employers interested in transitioning to safer chemicals.  The tool kit outlines a seven step approach to understanding the chemicals being used in the workplace and finding and evaluating opportunities for improvements. It also includes a number of links to additional useful information.  The tool kit can be found here.

Removing harmful chemicals from the workplace reduces the presence of harmful chemicals on our jobsite, on our roads, rails and waterways, in our products and ultimately in our landfills—a win for everyone and the environment.


Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 23

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

1. Alphabetically, what are the second three states with OSHA-approved State Plans?

2. The following provision is known as what?

"Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

Please submit your answer to me at gessig@jenner.com and indicate whether you would mind us sharing your name in a later post, should you be the first correct responder.


Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 22 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

1. What region of the U.S. has the greatest number of landfill facilities? According to U.S. EPA's latest Municipal Solid Waste Characterization Report (2012), the West region has the greatest number of landfill facilities: 718.  The South is next, with 668; then the Midwest, with 394; then the Northeast, with 128.

2. What is the term used to describe the solid material added to hydraulic fracturing fluid to keep new fractures open? Proppant.  Sand is often used for this purpose.


Earth Day 2015: Earth Day Celebrations — NASA #NoPlaceLikeHome Social Media Event

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

NASA is encouraging people all over the world to step outside and celebrate environmental awareness through social media. The event follows in the footsteps of last year’s #globalselfie social media event. This year, NASA is asking people from around the world to share photos or videos of their favorite places or sights on Earth and post these images to Twitter, Instagram, Vine, or Google+ using the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome, or to the event groups on Facebook and Flickr.

NASA says that after Earth Day, it will compile a video that includes some of the best posts throughout the day. For details on how to participate, visit the website here.


Earth Day 2015: DOT, FRA, PHMSA Take Additional Steps to Improve Rail Hazmat Safety

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), along with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), recently took additional steps in their action plan to improve safety with respect to transportation of flammable liquids, including crude oil, by rail.  These steps consisted of several main actions:

  • PHMSA Safety Advisory reminding hazardous materials shippers and carriers of “their responsibility to ensure that current, accurate and timely emergency response information is immediately available to emergency response officials for shipments of hazardous materials, and such information is maintained on a regular basis.”
  • PHMSA and FRA Safety Advisory reminding railroads operating a “high hazard flammable train” (HHFT) and offerors of Class 3 flammable liquids transported on such trains that certain information may be required by PHMSA and/or FRA personnel in their investigation immediately following an accident.
  • FRA Emergency Order requiring that trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas to adhere to a speed limit (40 mph).
  • FRA Safety Advisory making recommendations intended to enhance the mechanical safety of the cars in trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids.  In particular, the advisory recommends that railroads use highly qualified individuals to conduct the brake and mechanical inspections and recommends a reduction to the impact threshold levels the industry currently uses for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.
  • FRA Notice and comment request to gather additional data concerning rail cars carrying petroleum crude oil in any train involved in an FRA reportable accident. 
  • FRA Acting Administrator letter to the president of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) seeking an additional voluntary commitment to ensure certain relevant information is available to FRA and emergency responders immediately following a HHFT derailment, including information related to the lading, tank cars, and trains involved.  The letter requests a meeting within 30 days to discuss development of a process to do so.

These materials reference the July 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, as highlighting potential consequences of a railroad accident involving flammable liquids, as well as a number of other subsequent accidents in the U.S. involving trains transporting large quantities of crude oil and ethanol that resulted in hazardous material releases and fires – including three already in 2015.


Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 21 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

Approximately what percentage of of the U.S.'s electricity demand is supplied by wind power? According to the U.S. Department of Energy's recent report Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, as of 2013, U.S. electricity demand served by wind energy had tripled from 1.5% of total end-use demand in 2008 to 4.5%.

Earth Day 2015: Earth Day Celebrations — Earth Day Tokyo 2015 Event

Bandza_Alexander_COLOR

By Alexander J. Bandza Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

This past weekend in Japan, the annual “Earth Day Tokyo” took place in the city’s Yoyogi Park. The event, which began in 2001 and now attracts more than 100,000 visitors, claims to be the largest annual environmental event in Japan. Japanese charities, non-profit organizations, and eco-conscious businesses set up booths to meet visitors. The two-day event features speakers, art, and free music.

The official website is here (in Japanese), and an English website with photos of past events is here.


Earth Day 2015: Beach Clean Up!

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson Jenner & Block Earth Day 2015

 

On Friday, April 17th, Jenner & Block partnered with ComEd and Exelon to clean up the 12th Street beach at Northerly Island, in cooperation with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Our group picked up over 85 pounds of broken glass, plastic beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarettes, and other miscellaneous trash and debris.

The Adopt-a-Beach program is the premier volunteer initiative for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Teams remove litter and enter results into the Adopt-a-Beach online system to share with local beach authorities, educate the public, and improve the beaches and the health of the Great Lakes.

This picture shows our team after clean up efforts at 12th Street beach: 

Beach Day Cleanup

 

What will you do to celebrate Earth Day 2015? How about participating in the Adopt-a-Beach program?

To learn more about beach clean up opportunities or to schedule an event, visit http://www.greatlakes.org/.

A special thanks to our own Gay Sigel for organizing the Jenner & Block team. Thanks, Gay!

Earth Day 2015: Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Shows Increase Since Prior Year and Since 1990

Sigel_Gabrielle_COLOR

By Gabrielle Sigel

 

As it has since 1994, on April 15 of this year, U.S. EPA published its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. The Inventory tracks greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions from man-made sources, by year, starting in 1990. The Inventory began as part of the U.S.'s commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC") and uses the same methodologies as other UNFCCC members for developing and reporting data. Details on the 20th Annual Inventory can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.

The 2015 Inventory contains data from 2013 and in comparison to prior years. In 2013, U.S. GHG emissions totaled 6,673 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents ("MMTCO2e"). Those emissions are a 2% increase over 2012 emissions, although they remain lower than the peak amount (7,399.78 MMTCO2e), inventoried in 2007. The leading GHG emitted remains CO2, with its principal sources being electricity generation and transportation, followed by all other industrial sources.

U.S. EPA attributes the 2013 increase in GHG emissions largely to an increase in the use of coal to generate electricity. However, U.S. EPA also found that increased emissions occurred in virtually all sectors due to a cold winter leading to increased demand for heating, an increase in vehicle miles traveled, and an overall increase in vehicle fuel use. Overall, since 1990, GHG emissions have increased by 5.9%. Specifically, since 1990, emissions from electrical power plants have increased 11.4% and transportation-related emissions have increased by 16.4%.

The Inventory, which is submitted to the UN for further reporting and analyses with other countries' data, is different than the annual reports prepared by U.S. EPA pursuant to the GHG Reporting Program. The GHG Reporting Program was established by U.S. EPA rule on October 30, 2009. The Reporting Program accumulates emission data from years beginning with 2010 emissions and relies on reporting from 8,000 individual large sources of emissions (typically over 25,000 MMTCO2e/year). The Inventory, which EPA calculates based on national energy, agricultural, and other statistics, is meant to account for 100% of U.S. man-made sources, not just the largest sources. GHG Reporting Program data for 2013 was reported on September 30, 2014 and can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ghgreporting/ghgdata/mediacenter.html.

Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 20 (Answers)

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

1. What recent environmental catastrophe in part inspired Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day in 1970? The first Earth Day followed closely on the heels of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in 1969.  It is considered one of the largest oil spills to have taken place in United States waters.

2. What United Nations decade-long initiative aims to promote efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015? The United Nations' International Decade for Action, "Water for Life," 2005-2015, was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution A/RES/58/217. More information and updates are available here

Congratulations to Brian Fitzgerald for being our first correct responder!


Earth Day 2015: Earth Day Celebrations — Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day

Bandza_Alexander_COLORBy Alexander J. Bandza

 

Over the weekend, on April 18, 2015, over 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC for Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, a collaboration between the Global Poverty Project and Earth Day Network. The two groups joined together to address ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change. Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day was co-hosted by will.i.am and Soledad O’Brien. The event featured performances by No Doubt, Usher, Fall Out Boy, Mary J. Blige, Train, and My Morning Jacket, with special guests Common, D’Banj, Fally Ipupa, VIXX, and Roy Kim.

For more information, including highlights of the event, check out the website here.


Earth Day 2015: Water Scarcity—Important Developments

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

While much progress has been made in the U.S. to address water quality since the first Earth Day in 1970, increasingly the critical issue of the day is water quantity and specifically sufficient availability of safe water for everyone. According to the World Water Council, 1 in 9 people in the world, or approximately 750 million individuals, lacks access to safe water. In January 2015, the World Economic Forum identified water scarcity as the #1 global risk based upon possible impact to society. These issues exist worldwide, including throughout the U.S.

This month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced the state's first-ever mandatory effort to cope with four years of the worst drought in California's history including a 25% use reduction on cities and towns. There are 5 things you need to know about California's water situation, according to National Geographic's ongoing research and study of water scarcity issues in the Western U.S.:

  1. The state (and much of the West) relies heavily on snowpack each winter to resupply surface water streams and lakes. Because of a lack of winter storms and record high temperatures this past winter, snowpack in California is at an all-time low. This is the fourth consecutive year that the snowpack has been below normal. The state's hydropower supply is also threatened when snowpack is scarce.
  2. When surface water supplies are low, hidden water supplies beneath the surface in aquifers, or groundwater, are drilled to make up the shortfall. A large aquifer under the Central Valley is being rapidly depleted to make up for shortfalls in surface water supply. A 2011 study indicated that the Central Valley Aquifer is losing an amount of water each year equivalent to the nearly 29 million acre-feet of water found in Lake Mead, the nation's largest surface reservoir on the Colorado River. (An acre-foot is one acre of ground covered one foot deep in water.) California for the first time last year passed legislation regulating groundwater use, but those restrictions will not come into effect for years.
  3. While the 25 percent water use restrictions announced last week are intended to help reduce demand, most of the water in California is used for farming, which was largely not included in Brown's announcement on restrictions. California's farms produce and export fruits and vegetables, hay for livestock, and meat and dairy products. Surface water for farms is allocated from state and federal water projects. Water supply restrictions for farmers may be announced soon by the state, but farmers have been drilling groundwater to compensate for surface supply shortages. Last week's rules require only that agricultural operations improve their reporting of water use to the state.
  4. California is not the only state in the West facing water supply issues. Winter snowpack in Oregon and parts of Washington was far below normal. The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, has also been in a drought for more than a decade, and the river basin's aquifers have been declining, too. 
  5. When California faced a major drought in the late 1970s, fewer than 20 million people lived in the state. Now nearly 40 million live there. While Californians have drastically improved the efficiency of their water use in recent years, if rain and snow do not arrive later this year, the supply of groundwater—much of which is non-renewable—will continue to decline as it is used to make up for surface shortages.

The good news is there are two technical advancements that are currently available to mitigate water scarcity issues—one more mainstream and the other yet to be a "politically correct" option given public perceptions:

  1. Desalination—this age old process of converting seawater to drinking water is gaining in popularity despite costs and energy demands. A $1B plant is near completion by Poseidon Resources in Carlsbad, CA and will be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. 13-15 plants are proposed for California between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are 300 plants in the U.S. today and over 12,500 plants worldwide, particularly in the Middle East.
  2. Janicki Bioenergy's Omni Processor—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in this low cost, hyper-efficient sewage treatment plant which produces clean drinking water that meets both FDA and World Health Organization standards AND generates the very energy it requires to run. Janicki Bioenergy, based in Seattle, WA, has a prototype operating in Washington State and this year enters the developing world with a plant in Dekar, Senegal. Here's how it works:
  • The sewage sludge is fed into the plant by conveyor belt and dried in a tube that separates solid waste from water. The Omni Processor's intensely hot incinerator reaches 1,000 degrees Celsius, scorching enough to kill all pathogens and, perhaps more important for those living downwind, to operate without the expected offensive smell.
  • Converted into vapor, the water is spun in a centrifuge to remove remaining particles and then fed through two layers of filters. Next, it is cooled and condensed, at which point it is filtered one more time. The latest model can yield 86,000 liters of pure drinking water each day.
  • The remaining solids are then fed into an incinerator, yielding a high-powered steam that drives a generator, which in turn produces the very electricity that runs the plant (the Dakar unit produces 150 kW per day), plus excess energy that can be diverted back to the surrounding community. Another byproduct is a phosphorus-rich, disease-free ash that can be used as fertilizer. And the circle of life continues.

While some solutions exist, water remains a precious natural resource and there is no alternative. Every sector of society needs to do their part to conserve, protect and restore water resources in conjunction with governmental action to regulate quality concerns, improve infrastructure and water distribution systems, and address use limitations when appropriate.

For more information about water security, recent developments, and ongoing efforts to ensure the availability of access to safe water for everyone, visit Water.org at http://water.org or World Water Council at http://worldwatercouncil.org/.

Earth Day 2015: Trivia — April 20

Essig_Genevieve_COLORBy Genevieve J. Essig

 

1. What recent environmental catastrophe in part inspired Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day in 1970?

2. What United Nations decade-long initiative aims to promote efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015?

Please submit your answers to me at gessig@jenner.com and indicate whether you would mind us sharing your name in a later post, should you be the first correct responder.


Earth Day 2015 Special Series — April 20-24, 2015

 

In celebration of Earth Day 2015, the Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog will host a special campaign April 20-24 featuring a daily Earth Day trivia question, as well as unique news and stories about Earth Day events and activities taking place around the world, in addition to important developments in environmental law. As environmental lawyers, this is a good day for us to remember the contributions our clients and friends make to improving the environment in the communities where we live and work.

Earth Day 2015 commemorates the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day held on April 22, 1970. This year more than 1 billion people in 192 countries will participate in Earth Day activities and events, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

To celebrate Earth Day, the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day organizers will host a free event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 18, featuring presentations and remarks by U.S. and UN leaders, as well as entertainment throughout the day from No Doubt, Usher, Fall Out Boy, Mary J. Blige, Train, and others. This special event will be web streamed live at www.globalcitizen2015earthday.org.

You are invited to follow and participate in our Earth Day special series next week at http://environblog.jenner.com  and follow us on Twitter @JennerBlockEHS.

If you have any questions about our Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog or this special series, please feel free to contact me at lgrayson@jenner.com or 312-923-2756.


EPA E-Manifest Implementation Update

Grayson_Lynn_COLOR

By E. Lynn Grayson

 

On October 5, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (PDF), which authorizes the EPA to implement a national electronic manifest system. Commonly referred to as "e-Manifest," this national system is envisioned to be implemented by the EPA in partnership with industry and states.

EPA issued the e-manifest final rule, effective August 6, 2014, authorizing the use of electronic hazardous waste manifests that will become available when EPA establishes a new electronic hazardous waste manifest system (79 Fed. Reg. 7518, February 7, 2014). The modification will provide waste handlers with the option to complete, sign, transmit, and store manifest information electronically in the electronic system. States that currently receive and collect paper manifest copies will receive copies of manifest data electronically from the system.

EPA Connect, the Agency's official blog, provided some updates this week on the status of the e-Manifest implementation process. EPA reported that an important next step is to establish the initial fee structure for users of the system. EPA is working with states and stakeholders to create this fee proposal. According to the blog, EPA anticipates the proposed rule establishing the fee model for the system to be available for public comment by May 2016.

When implemented, EPA estimates this rule will impact 160,000 entities in at least 45 industries that ship off-site, transport, or receive approximately 5.9 million tons of RCRA hazardous wastes annually. These entities currently use between 4.6 and 5.6 million EPA Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifests.

Further insights and regulatory developments are detailed at http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/transportation/manifest/e-man.htm.


OECD Recommends More Tariffs and Taxes to Manage Water Risks

Grayson_Lynn_COLORBy E. Lynn Grayson

 

Today's financing mechanisms cannot cover the cost of upgrading old water systems, due to public budget cuts, a failure to reflect future costs in water charges and a drop in tariff revenues as city dwellers use less water. A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) titled "Water and Cities: Ensuring Sustainable Futures" recommends redesigning tariffs and taxes to discourage wasteful or costly practices and seeking new sources of funding from users who generate the biggest costs.

The report also recommends that cities:

  • Improve the way they use taxes and tariffs. Taxes should be designed so those who benefit most from water systems or generate extra costs foot more of the bill. Tariffs should better reflect water scarcity and the cost of upgrading infrastructure. For example, new taxes could be aimed at property developers, who need first-rate water services.
  • Harness more private investment from financiers, property developers and entrepreneurs to finance new infrastructure or facilities like desalination or wastewater plants. Capital tied up in water infrastructures could be used to generate liquidity for new projects.
  • Drive innovation in water management by changing regulations that favor old technologies, having tariffs and taxes reflect the true cost of inefficient practices, and introducing performance-based contracts that reward objectives like conserving water.
  • Encourage co-operation between cities and their surroundings, e.g. using farmland as a buffer against floods or sending city run-off to be used for rural irrigation. Set up institutions that can manage water at different scales through urban-rural partnerships or through co-operation between neighboring towns and cities.
  • Where they exist, empower water regulators to protect the public interest and increase transparency in urban water supply and sanitation to make service providers more accountable, and to introduce more independence and technical underpinning in the setting of tariffs.

OECD projects global water demand will increase some 55 percent by 2050 when global population tops 9 billion. While OECD's 34 member countries currently enjoy water security, the report concludes now is the time to address water-related challenges presented by rapid urbanization that will adversely impact cities throughout the world.

OECD's report addresses global concerns but is good insight for U.S. cities facing water scarcity and drought concerns, now and in the future. It is well understood in the U.S. that the improvement of water infrastructure is key to effectively managing water resources.

More information about OECD's water related work including further insights into the new report is available at http://www.oecd.org.