Reevaluating Onsite Wastewater Systems: Expert Recommendations and Municipal Decision-Making

Water Policy, 2015, Forthcoming

36 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2015

See all articles by Sridhar Vedachalam

Sridhar Vedachalam

Environmental Policy Innovation Center

Veeravenkata Vanka

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

Susan Riha

Cornell University

Date Written: April 13, 2015

Abstract

Onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) serve 20 to 25 percent of the households in the U.S., and large parts of rural Canada, Australia and Europe. Urbanization and newer environmental standards are leading many communities that currently rely on OWTS to think of alternatives. We study this decision-making in 19 municipalities across the U.S. through the unique lens of feasibility reports commissioned by the respective municipalities and authored by engineering/design consulting firms. The reports omitted certain essential information relevant to the decision-making process, and were not of high quality due to lack of specificity on various parameters. However, the reports evaluated a balanced mix of decentralized and centralized treatment options, and the final recommendations were not biased in any particular direction. Most municipalities failed to take any follow-up action on the report recommendations, calling into question the motive behind commissioning these reports. Although not representative of the entire U.S., the small sample of feasibility reports evaluated here is indicative in nature and provided significant insights about the inputs that help municipalities make decisions on complex issues.

Keywords: Onsite systems, decentralized, decision-making, feasibility reports, wastewater management

JEL Classification: D70, Q25, R11

Suggested Citation

Vedachalam, Sridhar and Vanka, Veeravenkata and Riha, Susan, Reevaluating Onsite Wastewater Systems: Expert Recommendations and Municipal Decision-Making (April 13, 2015). Water Policy, 2015, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2594031

Sridhar Vedachalam (Contact Author)

Environmental Policy Innovation Center

777 6th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Veeravenkata Vanka

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

1023 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
United States

Susan Riha

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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