Rise & Shine

Vanessa M. Leiby
“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”
— British Philosopher Bernard Williams

Each year, the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) sends out a survey asking its members: What keeps you up at night?

As this word cloud created from member responses so colorfully depicts, their concerns mirror those of many within the water and wastewater industry. Many of them lose sleep over lack of funding. Others wrestle with barriers to doing business—including both trade barriers and barriers to entry for new technologies. A number of them raised the specter of the aging workforce and the future challenges that poses. These are all real problems that we as an association and an industry must tackle.

One of my favorite comments, though, came from WWEMA member Bill Decker of Aqua-Aerobic Systems. Decker wrote: “It’s not about what keeps us up at night; it’s about what gets us up in the morning.”

What a wonderful perspective! Sometimes we spend so much time fretting over the challenges and difficulties we face in our jobs that we fail to celebrate the opportunities we have each day to make a difference.

We as an industry bring clean water to billions of people throughout the planet. Our waste management services play a vital role in global health. Our facilities—whether utilities or manufacturing plants—offer employment and other economic benefits to our communities. Our greatest minds develop innovations that improve people’s lives each and every day.

I have worked in water in various capacities for more than 35 years, and I have seen firsthand the dedication and passion people in this industry have for what they do. It is this enthusiasm, this commitment to helping people and the planet that ultimately allows us to overcome each challenge that comes our way and find ways to “get ’er done.”

Wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. and abroad, for example, are reinventing themselves into “resource recovery facilities” and harvesting nutrients and energy. Again, what a great perspective!  

Water and wastewater today faces many serious problems, and we must work to address them. But let us always remember to look through those problems to the possibilities.

So I ask you: What gets you up in the morning?

Vanessa M. Leiby is executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn., a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that has represented the interests of manufacturers serving the water supply and wastewater treatment industry since 1908. Leiby can be reached at info@wwema.org.

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