We thank Dave Smith, David Sedlak, and Jamie Marincola for useful conceptual discussions and guidance throughout the research process. Nell Green Nylen provided insights that strengthened the paper. Christine Keough provided capable assistance with R coding and data analysis. Haley Hayashi, Madison Burson, and Ishvaku Vashishtha also provided useful research assistance. We additionally thank Bill Eisenstein, Louise Mozingo, and Holly Doremus for helpful contributions to this project. Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful feedback. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Research Foundation (WRF), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA), and state and regional chapters of the Water Environment Association (WEA) assisted in piloting and distributing the survey. This research was funded by US Environmental Protection Agency grant EPR91601-0001 through Paradigm Environmental, Inc., National Science Foundation Grant 28139880-50542-C to the ReNUWIt Engineering Research Center, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE 1752814. Publication made possible in part by support from the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII) sponsored by the UC Berkeley Library. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or other funders.
Environmental Research Communications
Wastewater -- Management -- Technological innovations, Wastewater -- United States -- Law and legislation, Water quality management, Water utilities -- Law and legislation -- United States, Water-supply -- Government policy
Despite pressures to improve performance and reduce costs, innovation in the municipal wastewater sector in the United States has been notoriously slow. Previous research has suggested that wastewater utility managers may see regulation as a barrier to developing and deploying new technologies. To better understand how environmental regulation may fuel or hinder innovation in this sector, we conducted a nationwide survey of wastewater utility managers and wastewater regulators in the United States, asking both populations about their perceptions of specific aspects of regulation and innovation. Survey results revealed broad agreement between the two groups that funding and capacity, regulatory relationships, and complexities and inconsistencies within the regulatory environment present key barriers to and opportunities for enabling increased innovation in the municipal wastewater sector. While utility managers perceived almost all aspects of regulation as stronger barriers and opportunities than regulators did, both groups ranked them similarly. These results are promising evidence of common ground between wastewater regulators and municipal wastewater utility managers, and suggest shared views of key leverage points for encouraging innovation. Notably, neither regulators nor utility managers viewed reducing regulatory stringency as a productive way to encourage the deployment of new technologies. Rather, our survey results suggest that improving relationships and communication between utility managers and regulators, along with additional funding support for increased capacity of both utilities and regulators, would be more fruitful ways to encourage innovation in the municipal wastewater sector.
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Cantor, A., Sherman, L., Milman, A., & Kiparsky, M. (2021). Regulators and utility managers agree about barriers and opportunities for innovation in the municipal wastewater sector. Environmental Research Communications, 3(3), 031001. https://doi.org/10.1088/2515-7620/abef5d