Working with the 37 wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the Bay, as well as with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Williams helped establish a science-based regional permit for nutrients from the plants. The forward-thinking permit includes nature-based solutions like using wastewater to nurture horizontal levees or create wetlands, buffering the Bay shore from crashing waves as the sea rises. “We have a very enlightened Water Board,” Williams says, “because of that, instead of fighting, the wastewater community is interested in collaborating.” Giving water agencies options lets them choose solutions that work best for them, combining the greatest efficacy with the lowest cost and the fewest unintended consequences. “It’s important to make sure water regulations are well thought out,” he says. “It feels good, it’s a great mission to have.” Williams says future challenges for BACWA include sorting out how to deal with different nutrient issues in different parts of the Bay: Suisun Bay, for example, is flushed by fresh water from the Delta, while the lower South Bay is dominated by wastewater treatment plant outflows.”

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“The Bay is a jewel ― can you imagine if it stunk like it did in the '50s or if it was green with algae?” asks retiring Executive Director of the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA) David Williams, reflecting on his work over much of the last decade to address nutrient pollution.

Working with the 37 wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the Bay, as well as with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Williams helped establish a science-based regional permit for nutrients from the plants. The forward-thinking permit includes nature-based solutions like using wastewater to nurture horizontal levees or create wetlands, buffering the Bay shore from crashing waves as the sea rises. "We have a very enlightened Water Board," Williams says, "because of that, instead of fighting, the wastewater community is interested in collaborating." Giving water agencies options lets them choose solutions that work best for them, combining the greatest efficacy with the lowest cost and the fewest unintended consequences. "It's important to make sure water regulations are well thought out," he says. "It feels good, it's a great mission to have." Williams says future challenges for BACWA include sorting out how to deal with different nutrient issues in different parts of the Bay: Suisun Bay, for example, is flushed by fresh water from the Delta, while the lower South Bay is dominated by wastewater treatment plant outflows.”

About the author

Robin Meadows is an independent science journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She covers water and climate change adaptation for Estuary News, is the water reporter for the Bay Area Monitor, and contributes to Bay Nature, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, PLOS Research News and Water Deeply. Robin also enjoys hiking and photography.

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