Advocacy strategies were the focus of the 10th annual Water Resources Symposium, sponsored by the Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship and held on May 13 in Marlborough.

The theme of the event was “Advocacy Counts,” and speakers shared advocacy strategies that water resource professionals can employ to improve the policy and regulatory environment related to water.

The Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship is a membership organization representing public, quasi-governmental and private organizations that manage drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems throughout the state. The objective of the symposium was to bridge the gap for water resource practitioners who are often disconnected from policy discussions that impact their work.

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, the keynote speaker, discussed the importance of investing in the state’s aging water infrastructure in order to avoid additional costs to municipalities and the environment over the long term. The mayor also emphasized the partnership between municipal officials, municipal water and sewer professionals, and private sector engineers that puts health and safety first and also drives innovation.

The MMA participated in a panel about local and state advocacy strategies, along with the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Massachusetts Water Works Association, American Council of Engineering Companies/Massachusetts, and the 495 Partnership. Panelists shared best practices for meeting with state legislators, testifying at public hearings, submitting comments during regulatory rule-making periods, and forming coalitions with partner municipalities and organizations.

Josh Schimmel of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission presented a case study on combined sewer overflow infrastructure and discussed proposed legislation that would require public notification when overflow events occur.

Combined systems merge untreated wastewater with stormwater; when the system is overloaded during heavy rain events, they are designed and permitted to discharge the untreated mixture into rivers.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Water Resources Stewardship is working with the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance and other stakeholders on a final version of the public notification bill that would both address public and environmental health concerns and be implementable by water and sewer operators.

The MMA, through its Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment and its Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities, continues to advocate on behalf of the full range of water resource issues and funding needs that were addressed at the symposium.

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