Following current governmental news can help businesses navigate the regulatory landscape and offer opportunities. Publicly accessible tools enable businesses to track government trends that impact their goals. Here are some tips on tracking issues and participating in government affairs:
Follow current events. Local, state and national news outlets help illustrate regional trends. The Water Quality Assn. (WQA) posts its press releases for the public on its website to highlight hot topics. In addition, WQA members receive news briefs and monthly government affairs issue reports with a bills list.
Take advantage of research and data. Convenient tools like the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SIDWIS), Enforcement Compliance History Online (ECHO), and Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) all report through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and can help identify trends in water quality around the country.
SIDWIS records information on public water systems and violations of drinking water regulations. EPA’s ECHO resources provide easy-to-use summaries of public water system activities reported through SIDWIS. The Safe Drinking Water Act dashboard in ECHO has search parameters that can be adjusted to look nationwide, statewide or at a specific facility. The third version of the UCMR included 30 contaminants, with data collected from 2013 to 2015. Not only do these data provide regulators with a basis for future regulatory actions, they include where the contaminants were reported.
The Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF), an independent research organization, sponsors numerous research studies on subjects relating to the water quality improvement industry. WQRF studies have been incorporated into marketing information and positively impacted legislative change. Further information about WQRF is available on the WQA website.
Engage in the process. Reach out to your representatives at every level to introduce yourself and your business. Consider inviting them to visit your office or manufacturing facility. Even if your request is only to introduce yourself and provide your expertise as a resource, that connection may become important in the future. It is better to have a seat at the table already than to have to ask for a seat later.
Looking Back at 2016 Legislation
In 2016, multiple states adopted new public notification rules, and the federal government passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. WIIN was a large piece of legislation incorporating several drinking water provisions, including the Water Resources Development Act and the Water Supply Code Savings Act. Additionally, WIIN included public notification requirements and funds for testing of drinking water in schools.
Representation Changes in 2017
While water infrastructure and quality issues continue to be discussed at the state and federal levels, there have been multiple transitions at both levels as a result of 2016 elections. Twelve states held gubernatorial elections, including a special election in Oregon due to the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber. Republicans flipped three states—Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont—and maintained Indiana, North Dakota and Utah. Democrats held five states—Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia—and took North Carolina.
In the state legislatures, Republicans control both chambers in 33 states. In Kentucky, the 96-year Democratic control of the state House ended, with Republicans winning 16 Democratic incumbent seats. Iowa Republicans won control of the state Senate, and Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed water quality policies he hopes to push forward in 2017. There also are 32 state governmental trifectas post-election, meaning one party controls both legislative chambers and the governor position. There are 25 Republican and seven Democratic trifecta states.
As new legislation or regulations are introduced and drinking water issues receive media coverage, consider taking proactive approaches to get in front of potential risks and capitalize on opportunities.