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Business Groups Promote Water Trading

WRI EPRI water alliance farmland trustBusiness associations and non-profits are stepping up efforts to promote water quality trading.

In late January, law firm Troutman Sanders announced the formation of the National Water Quality Trading Alliance, bringing together leaders from business, government and non-profits.

It says NWQTA will support the development of new and existing, state and regional trading markets, and will seek comprehensive and coherent government rules on trading. Members include the American Farmland Trust, Electric Power Research Institute, World Resources Institute and US Water Alliance.

Many of the same members are involved in the National Network, a WRI- and Willamette Partnership-led effort to make recommendations for improving consistency, innovation and integrity in water quality trading. The network will examine existing options to distill a range of options for WQT design and operations.

According to Bloomberg BNA, the network “will show how water quality improvements can be achieved at a lower cost through market-based approaches than by installing controls at wastewater treatment plants, industrial facilities and power plants.”

The network plans to release two white papers in Spring 2015.

Water quality trading has rapidly evolved from concept to reality since the EPA released its Water Quality Trading Policy in 2003, Troutman Sanders says.

In December, the EPA and USDA announced a partnership to expand support for water quality trading and other market-based water management approaches, to create a new pathway towards regulatory compliance while helping farmers’ and ranchers’ bottom line. The two agencies say they will coordinate policies and programs to support states, interstate agencies and tribes as they develop and implement water quality trading programs.

And in 2011, the EPRI received a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant to initiate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin, which covers parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The creation of water trading in California could help reduce the costs of drought, a group of professors and non-profit fellows argued last week.

Takeaway: Several business groups and non-profits have teamed up to promote coherent rules for and best practices in water quality trading, which holds the promise of helping companies meet regulatory obligations while reducing costs.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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