APCC closed out a very busy and productive year with the release of the 3rd annual update of our State of the Waters: Cape Cod report. The findings this year continue to document declining water quality in our estuaries, ponds and in some drinking water supplies. The underlying reasons for the problems we face remain the same, excessive nutrients from inadequately treated wastewater, along with fertilizers and stormwater runoff, are responsible for most of our problems. While this report shows that conditions continue to worsen, I think we will look back at 2021 as the year when things started to turn around.

Why the optimism? Several towns took big steps forward authorizing major construction projects. Many other towns made strides finalizing their construction plans and still more established financing mechanisms that will support long term nutrient management programs. Other reasons to view 2021 in a positive light include the promise of the Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund becoming a reality and providing $71 million in property tax relief to eight Cape towns to support wastewater management with a commitment to support 25 percent of the cost of future projects that qualify for state financing. The federal infrastructure bill provided a five-year infusion of money to further offset local costs when towns begin new construction projects. In addition, APCC proposed, and the County is seriously considering, expanding its loan program to support the costs of connection of homes to sewer projects at a zero percent interest rate, an enormously helpful tool to improve affordability for the average homeowner.

While this year has been a banner one for the development of financing tools and progress on marine waters, we also saw a great awakening around pond health. APCC’s cyano program expanded in 2021 and with it came a greater public awareness of the threats to pond health and a rapid consensus on the need to understand and address the problems. Towns are starting to include pond health in their plans for wastewater management and the public is learning how to improve lawn care and of the importance of eliminating fertilizer use. Much remains to be done, but 2021 will be seen as a turning point.

None of this means the job is done, but the direction has changed. Nothing good happens by accident and this progress, as early a stage as it is, reflects countless hours of hard work at the local level by volunteers, town staff and elected leaders. We at APCC, staff and members alike, believe we have played an important role in helping to turn the tide. I can see the day ahead when the State of the Waters report will begin tracking, documenting, and publicizing water quality improvement. That makes it all worthwhile.

Happy New Year, best wishes, and good health to you all.