effective regulatory relationships

The role of regulatory relationships in wastewater innovation

Five boxes are shown, one for each of the 5 characteristics. Arrows connect some of the boxes to one another. The first box is for “clarity.” It says “The relationship establishes explicit and mutually understood expectations regarding the utility’s and regulator’s respective responsibilities and goals.” The second box is for “capacity building.” It says “The relationship builds knowledge and abilities for both the utility and the regulator.” The third box is for “continuity.” It says “The relationship begins early and continues throughout project development and implementation.” The fourth box is for “trust.” It says “The relationship fosters willingness by the utility and regulator to take risks in exchange for the other party’s capability and willingness to deliver on commitments, as well as public confidence in both.” Finally, the fifth box is for “bounded flexibility.” It says “The relationship maintains the ability to adjust and adapt over time, including by (1) supporting project refinement, learning, and adjustment and (2) exploring the appropriate use of regulatory discretion.” Three arrows point from the clarity box to other boxes. One arrow points to the capacity building box and says “Helps parties identify their information needs.” A second arrow point to the trust box and says “Helps parties understand one another’s goals, responsibilities, and constraints + identify areas of alignment.” The third arrow points to the bounded flexibility box and says “Helps parties identify where flexibility may be possible and beneficial.” Two arrows point from the capacity building box to other boxes. One points to the trust box and says “Builds project-specific knowledge + builds ability to deal with innovation.” The other points to the bounded flexibility box and says “Supports project refinement and adjustment.” Four arrows point from the continuity box, one to each of the other four boxes. The arrow to the clarity box says “Maintains understanding of parties’ goals and expectations.” The arrow to the capacity building box says “Supports developing and maintaining the parties’ institutional and project-specific knowledge.” The arrow to the trust box says “Demonstrates a pattern of good-faith interactions.” The arrow to the bounded flexibility box says “Enables ongoing engagement around adaptive management + regulatory discretion.” Finally, an arrow points from the trust box to the bounded flexibility box. It says “Increases willingness to use adaptive management + supports exploring regulatory discretion.”

by Nell Green Nylen, Michael Kiparsky, and Anita Milman

Public water and wastewater utilities are increasingly struggling to meet society’s expectations.  Their basic infrastructure is aging, budgets are tight, and they face a barrage of stressors, from population growth to climate change and shifting regulatory expectations.  What’s more, in addition to performing their traditional function of protecting human health and water quality, many wastewater …