In April, many of the major water groups gathered in Washington, D.C., for Water Week 2016. For the first time, we had a joint meeting of the executives and officers of our organizations, including the Water Environment Federation (WEF), American Water Works Assn. (AWWA), National Assn. of State Drinking Water Administrators (NACWA), WateReuse Assn., U.S. Water Alliance, Assn. of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Water Research Foundation, Water Environment Research Foundation and Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (WWEMA).
The purpose of our meeting was simple, yet so critical to the future of our industry. WWEMA Chairman Tammy Bernier, president of Duperon Corp., said it best in a WWEMA Special Report following the event: “History was made with WWEMA at the table of a joint session of officers of the U.S. water associations. Compelled especially by Flint, Mich., where 9,000 residents have been seriously impacted by the breakdown of a clean and safe water system, this groundbreaking meeting focused on how to unify water partners to a common purpose: a sustainable water system in the United States.”
For many years, the water organizations have maintained excellent relationships and worked together on issues of mutual concern. For example, WWEMA holds seats on WEF’s Manufacturers & Representatives Committee, AWWA’s Manufacturers/Associates Council and the WateReuse Assn.’s Industrial and Commercial Reuse Committee. We also are active in AWWA’s Innovation Initiative and worked closely this year with NACWA to plan joint events during Water Week. This is in addition to our members’ individual involvement in many of these organizations’ committees and councils.
This meeting, however, took our relationships a step further. With all of us coming together to identify and prioritize critical issues, we have begun a much-needed process for unifying the industry and galvanizing it toward real progress. The public health and environmental needs of our communities, combined with the looming crises presented by our nation’s aging infrastructure, demands no less.
Together we teed up a wide range of issues, including leveraging our message, growing the water workforce, climate change, regulatory flexibility, water reuse, lead in drinking water, the “one water” concept, developing a better business model for utility management, creating metrics and a risk index for utilities to gauge those at risk for public health crises and tackling legislative issues such as overall funding and programs for low-income households.
For the near term, the groups committed to collaborating to create messaging around affordability, and plans are underway to continue the joint dialogue and plan joint activities during next year’s Water Week—March 19 to 25, 2017.
WWEMA looks forward to the next steps and continued progress. Stay tuned.
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 [email protected].