The policies and strategies that have evolved from the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) are now unable to deal with the realities of today’s complex and overburdened watersheds. Toxic algae blooms and dead zones in our lakes and coastal waters, contaminated water wells and aquifers, poor water quality in the majority of our rivers and streams… all are symptoms of an outdated and failing clean water strategy.
Agriculture and livestock were all but exempted from the CWA and they are now the largest source of excess nutrients in most major U.S. watersheds. Livestock production is also a low-margin industry that has sent its manure waste downstream for decades, along with the cost of its environmental impacts. Today’s production economics will not support investment in technology to clean up those impacts. Policy changes are coming, both at state and federal levels, to help offset the cost of adopting solutions to reduce the livestock industry’s impacts to air and water quality.
Several states have implemented (or are in the process of implementing) market-driven strategies to stimulate private sector participation, as well. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the US Senate and House to provide a 30 percent investment tax credit, similar to the energy ITC that drove growth in wind and solar, to biogas and nutrient recovery technologies.
Engaging the private sector to develop and implement lower-cost alternatives is a common sense solution whose time has come. Both USEPA and USDA now support new market-driven strategies that will incentivize private sector technology development and financing of alternative solutions, and generate revenues to help offset their cost.
For a more detailed discussion of Policy Change and its impacts on the industry, click here.