Challenging relationships with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are nothing new to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Yet at their core, POTWs and environmental NGOs often share the same basic goal – protection of receiving waters. Indeed, aren’t POTW employees also “environmentalists” by the nature of their work to enforce the Clean Water Act? That begs the question: do POTWs and NGOs always have to be opponents? Instead, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) decided to embark on a different course – one of collaboration.
In early 2005, EBMUD and Save The Bay, a regional environmental advocacy organization, launched a unique public agency-NGO partnership to expand residential pollution prevention efforts. This collaborative approach is a new way of doing business. On a basic level it helps EBMUD enhance its education and outreach programs and divert potential pollutants from its wastewater treatment plant. At a strategic level, the partnership fosters new relationships and lines of communications with historic adversaries, leverages both partners’ limited resources in exciting new ways, supports EBMUD’s business need to ensure protection of San Francisco Bay, and actively builds recognition among ratepayers, regulators and other NGOs that EBMUD places a high priority on Bay protection.