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Five EMS Bridges to Utility Sustainability

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With utilities facing significant water and climate challenges, regulatory demands, tightening budgets, energy constraints, urban growth, increasing pollution, and aging infrastructure, traditional planning approaches fall short. How can utilities build the “bridge to sustainability,” and balance these competing demands, set and achieve critical program goals, and align those goals with programs that are perhaps already in place within their organization?

There are at least five paths utilities can take to help them along the road to sustainability and succeed with their version of the triple-bottom-line (people, planet, profit): implement an environmental management system (EMS), applied in one of at least three ways – ISO 14001, National Biosolids Partnership EMS, or do-it-yourself; implement a management system designed to achieve outcomes based on the key attributes of sustainable utilities, endorsed by the US EPA, WEF, and several other major water sector associations; work with state environmental programs that often are founded on an EMS.

These approaches provide a link between a utility's status quo and a chosen destination, building on existing practices and focusing on continual improvement. They have proven results in the water/wastewater sector, and they fit the budget, size, and management style of almost any utility. Many agencies already may be on one of these paths and can access myriad resources, several available only in the last year.
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Keywords: Sustainability; effective utilities; environmental management systems

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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