One particularly interesting presentation was on the future of regulating non-point sources of pollution. Under the Clean Water Act, a point source of pollution refers to an easily ascertainable point where the pollution is occurring—such as a pipe or a ditch.
In contrast, with respect to non-point pollution, it is not easy to track where the pollution is actually originating. An example of non-point source pollution would be agricultural runoff. Currently, the majority of water pollution originates from non-point sources of pollution. This is largely due to the numerous difficulties in regulating this form of pollution.
Consequently, several speakers provided perspective on how to clean up non-point source pollution in a collaborative manner. They recognized that there is little incentive to eliminate non-point source pollution for oftentimes unknowing offenders. For example, in the agricultural arena, infrastructure investments to deal with non-point source pollution are costly with little to no benefit to the producer.
The speakers talked about the Farm Bill’s role, along with the leadership of local government, in helping to incentivize the reduction of this problem. The speakers highlighted a number of quite creative approaches that were being utilized nationwide. Of course, many barriers currently exist to implementation. It remains to be seen what the future holds with regard to this area of regulation under the Clean Water Act.
Yesterday Tom and I had the opportunity to attend the annually-held Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas. Over 600 people attended from various viewpoints including attorneys, politicians, engineers, researchers, and representative of numerous governmental agencies. Governor Brownback delivered a speech outlining his vision for managing water in the state. He emphasized the importance of conservation. Governor Brownback indicated that he believes that it is even possible to make the Ogallala Aquifer a sustainable resource.
Another notable speaker was Michael Teague, the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment. He talked about the importance of collaboration between agencies and between states. Mr. Teague based his viewpoint off of extensive experience dealing with natural disasters, including a significant drought in Oklahoma.
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer also spoke at the event. He echoed similar sentiment of Governor Brownback. A professor from Israel even provided an overview of how his country has dealt with issues involving the scarcity of water. In the afternoon, various additional speakers presented on topics such as the Farm Bill, sustainable agricultural initiatives, dealing with non-point sources of pollution, and emergency preparedness for drought.
The conference was an opportunity for networking and collaboration on essential issues impacting water as a resource. We had the opportunity to reconnect with many old acquaintances as well as establish new connections. Overall, it was a wonderful conference.