Wastewater Resources: Rethinking Centralized Wastewater Treatment Systems, Land Use Planning and Water Conservation
This article aims to contribute to the debate about the legal and regulatory failure to search for imaginative-and immediate-solutions to questions of wastewater management. Following this introductory section, Part I examines the existing, highly centralized models of wastewater treatment in the United States. To do so, Part I first examines federal environmental law and regulation relating to wastewater treatment. In addition, Part I briefly looks at a sampling of state laws affecting wastewater treatment and concludes that neither federal law nor typical state laws express a preference for centralized wastewater treatment-the dominant and default method for wastewater treatment in the United States. Indeed, Part I demonstrates that federal and some state laws in fact permit considerable innovation and experimentation in the development of wastewater treatment techniques. Part II explores some of the historical and technical reasons that centralized treatment has become the preferred mode, including public health, environmental, and civil rights factors. Part III considers the possibilities for a reimagined wastewater treatment infrastructure. Part III concludes by considering the practicable reworking of wastewater treatment in the United States in such a way as to allow for the appropriate use of a wide range of technologies, both centralized and, where appropriate, decentralized treatment, with a particular eye to the possible legal and regulatory reforms to further a more workable, flexible, technologically varied, and integrated wastewater management system on the national level. One advantage of such an approach, the section concludes, is that it will begin to manage wastewater not just as needing disposal and treatment, but as a resource that needs to be managed to maximize the potential uses of cleaned water in land use planning, irrigation, and ground water recharge.
42 Urb. Law. 155 (2010). Also cited as: 43 Urb. Law. 155 (2010).