By Zach Matyja
Winter is a great time of year to find a comfy chair, cozy up by a fire, and settle in for a nice evening of reading… or so I’ve been told. With everything we get ourselves into during the holiday season, all our new New-Year’s Resolutions fresh in our head, and ever lengthening to-do lists at the home and office, most of us don’t take enough time to sit back, relax, and read. I know I get my (non-Dr. Seuss and Goodnight Moon) reading done on my commute and travels thanks to audiobooks.
If you are fortunate enough to be one of those individuals who makes time for reading, OR, if perhaps “read more” is one of those New-Year’s Resolutions, may I suggest some light reading? These documents have the potential to guide our industry in the coming years, or at the very least provide some good points for discussion around the dinner table or on the golf course at the 2018 Annual Conference (May 14-17, 2018, Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL – register today!).
ASCE 2017 Infrastructure Report Card – http://tinyurl.com/CSWEA-ASCEreport
Our friends at ASCE do a great job of grading our nation’s infrastructure every four years. It’s exciting to report that the Wastewater Category has improved its grade from a D to a D+! This well-written report provides the eye-opening facts we, and our leaders, need to read to help us truly understand the valuable assets we work to maintain on a daily basis. The report estimates that $271 billion is needed in order for current and future demands to be met. Another number that hits close to home is the estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater that flowed into the Great Lakes basin through CSOs in 2014. We are making progress, but we still have a long ways to go.
Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force 2017 Report to Congress – http://tinyurl.com/CSWEA-EPAnutrients
This report is an update by the EPA to Congress on the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008. As we are all aware, nutrient reduction is the hot topic at most wastewater conferences these days, and for good reason. The report highlights that in Illinois, 47% of major municipal dischargers now have total phosphorus limits, an increase of 11% in the past two years. This number is certainly not going go anywhere but up and nutrients will continue to remain a major issue for our organization. One of the recommended actions presented in this report is to continue to have the states cooperate to develop and implement nutrient reduction strategies. This is certainly one of the best parts about CSWEA – three states with different regulatory priorities. By having the knowledge of three states, our conferences will always have an expert who has “been there before.”
Climate Science Special Report – http://tinyurl.com/CSWEA-ClimateReport
It is nice to know that even in this time of uncertain federal support for environmental issues, significant federal reporting can still be accomplished. While we likely didn’t need a special report to show us that our climate is changing, it is nice to have some scientific backup. Climate change is certainly going to have an impact on how we operate our collection and treatment systems. Since 1958, the Midwest has seen a 53% increase in the number of “5-year” rain events. No matter where you care to point the blame, we are going to need to find ways to respond to this change. Residents who are seeing sewage in their basement from a 5-year event every other year, are not going to accept us not!
If you made it through all those documents, congratulations to you! I would suggest that you consider joining CSWEA in Washington, DC for Water Week 2018, April 15-21. The Illinois Section will again offer stipends to those interested in joining in this important week where professionals from throughout the country visit lawmakers to provide a unified voice for water. Watch for details on how to apply.
I’ll leave you with one more recommendation, in case you made it to the very end hoping that you’d get an actual recommendation of a book you check out at the library and read. I recommend Pompeii by Robert Harris. It has everything a good book could ask for, murder, mystery, heroism, natural disasters, and more – – with the added bonus that the main character is a hydraulic engineer! Happy reading!