People and Policy

The people and policy component of LIFT informs local, state, and federal policies and regulations by identifying barriers to innovation and developing actions to overcome them. WEF and WERF are working closely with U.S. EPA, NACWA, ACWA, WWEMA, and other agencies to bring together regulators, technology providers, and facility owners under the people and policy program to help implement appropriate policies and regulations to foster innovation. The U.S. EPA Blueprint for Integrating Technology Innovation into the National Water Program includes a working list of actions that the Office of Water will pursue, including supporting the LIFT program. 

Utility of the Future 

In early 2013, WERF, WEF, and NACWA jointly released the Water Resources Utility of the Future (UOTF), a blueprint for action for transforming the way traditional wastewater utilities view themselves and manage their operations. Many publicly owned treatment works have mastered their core wastewater treatment function and are now redefining themselves as resource recovery agencies and vital community enterprises. The report notes that technology innovation is a driving force for achieving the UOTF. Report recommendations most closely related to innovation and new technology development, testing, and implementation will be targeted for action as part of the LIFT people and policy program. The Water Resources Utility of the Future 2015 Annual Report provides an update on the water sector’s efforts to transform treatment into full resource recovery that includes sustainable, cost-effective management options.

Water Sector Groups Launch Utility of the Future Today Recognition Program (4/21/2016)

Utility of the Future Today Program FAQs

Nutrient Roadmap 

The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, WEF, and the Environmental Defense Fund convened a facilitated dialogue with about 30 stakeholders representing diverse interests (e.g. utilities, academia, environmental groups, associations, consultants) to “Craft a Vision for Nutrient Management in Wastewater Treatment”. The aspirational goal is that “the next generation of wastewater treatment has net zero impact with regards to energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and nutrient discharge by 2040.” This discussion will provide the foundation for development of a Nutrient Roadmap.

Creating the Space to Innovate 


In August 2017, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) hosted a 2-day experts’ workshop, titled “Creating the Space to Innovate”. This is a WEF-driven portion of the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) that focuses on creating the regulatory space to help foster technology and approaches to innovation in the water sector. This program considers ways in which its regulatory activities can reduce barriers to, or encourage incentives for, technology and innovation.  

The objectives of this workshop were to discuss five technology implementation scenarios and their associated regulatory/policy framework, refine the current regulatory/policy options, and identify the next steps needed to support innovative technology adoption through enhancement of the regulatory/policy landscape. The five implementation scenarios that this workshop focused on were:

  • Digestion Enhancements
  • Water Reuse
  • Renewable Products
  • Nutrient Management
  • Improved Risk Sharing and Institutional Barriers

A final report with the findings and suggestions from this workshop will be published by WEF in early 2018.

Utility R&D Metrics 

The types of organizational structures, funding mechanisms, and staffing approaches that public agencies use to conduct R&D, advance innovation, and test new technologies are being explored through a utility R&D metrics study. Preliminary data and results from the study were shared at the LIFT meeting at WEFTEC 2013, along with case study example presentations from representatives at LACSD, NYCDEP, and MWRDGC.