Management, Economic Policy

Overcoming Barriers to Evaluation and Use of Decentralized Wastewater Technologies and Management

Publication Date: October 2007
Cooperating Institution: Stone Environmental, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Carl Etnier
Project Budget: $277,038
Project Identifier: 04-DEC-2


While the United States Environmental Protection Agency has determined that “[a]dequately managed decentralized wastewater treatment systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals” (U.S. EPA 1997), many barriers to decentralized wastewater treatment have been identified, from a patchwork of regulations to inequitable access to public financing.

In this report, the researchers identify the most important barriers to engineers equitably considering decentralized wastewater treatment options, determine the level of influence engineers have in overcoming the barrier(s), and develop strategies and actions. The most influential barriers were classified into four categories:

  • Engineers’ financial reward for using centralized systems
  • Engineers’ lack of knowledge of decentralized systems
  • Unfavorability of the regulatory system for decentralized systems
  • Lack of systems thinking applied to wastewater issues

The project team crafted a list of strategies and actions for overcoming the barriers, based on information from interviews, the literature reviewed, input during conference presentations about the project, and their own experience. For each action, organizations or types of engineers were identified who could carry it out. A communications plan listing means of disseminating the information is included.