2022 WWD Young Pros: Alex Harper, Central Arkansas Water

May 24, 2022

From a high school award to being named a Geospatial World 50 Rising Star, Alex Harper is at the forefront of GIS integration for utilities.

About the author:

Bob Crossen is senior managing editor for Water & Wastes Digest. Crossen can be reached at [email protected].


Name: Alex Harper

Age: 37

Education: Bachelor of Science in Spatial Information Systems with GIS

Company: Central Arkansas Water

Title: GIS Manager

What are some of your accomplishments?

I was named Geospatial World 50 Rising Star in 2022; given the Innovator Award from the Arkansas GIS Users Forum in 2021; named Esri Water GIS Hero in 2021; awarded the Young Alumni Rising Star Award from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2020; received the Dale Carnegie Highest Award for Achievement in 2019; and promoted to GIS Manager and now oversee 11 geospatial professionals in 2018.

What has been your most memorable project?

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic it was decided by CAW that we would restore automatically all services that were turned off in the last 60 to 90 days. As water is an essential service, especially during a pandemic, I was able to pull the data from our Work Order management system of all shut offs for no-payments and connect that with our GIS assets. Then I was able to provide a web application that could be used on mobile applications for emergency field staff to get all services turned back on in two days.

What did you do before entering the water industry?

I was a GIS Technician for Pulaski Area GIS (PAgis) where I worked on creating and maintaining basemap data for the Pulaski County area. Basemap layers consisted of Addresses, Street Centerlines, Building Outlines, Parking Lots, etc.

What was the biggest lesson you learned when you entered the water industry?

The biggest eye opening lesson that I have learned about the water industry is the number of important regulations for health and safety of the water that we provide and drink. Normally we just turn on a facet to get a drink of water or jump in the shower and we do not stop to think about how much goes into making the water safe and clean. We just kind of take it for granted.

How do you expect your generation will influence the water industry?

I think our generation will find innovative ways to reduce water usage and provide water for those areas that have suffered great droughts as of late. As we see infrastructure begin failing that has been in place for decades, we will need to find cost affective ways to replace or refurbish everything that is failing. Our generation will be responsible for that.

What are your aspirations for your water industry career?

I want to continue to grow as a water professional. The water industry has many different fields that come together with a common goal in mind. The geospatial field will continue to grow and become more of a decision maker for the water industry. All data has a location and all locations have data.

What are your hobbies?

I love the great outdoors. Arkansas is referred to as "The Natural State" so I love to spend the time fishing the amazing clear water lakes and hunting the beautiful national forests. Making memories with my family is my favorite hobby right now especially as we have spent the past few years not being able to do much because of the pandemic.

What is your hidden talent?

I am not sure that this is a hidden talent, but I do pride myself in being able to speak and communicate with a wide range of people.

In what ways are you involved in your local community outside professional work?

I serve on the Leadership Council at my church (Salem United Methodist Church).

What are your passions?

I have a passion for learning new things. I try and make it a point to learn one new thing each day. Even if it's something simple. I am also passionate about my family and spending as much time with them. The Arkansas Razorbacks is an automatic passion for anyone from Arkansas but I am also passionate about the St. Louis Cardinals. I follow all of their games.

Describe a memorable moment with family or friends.

The birth of each of my kids is probably the most memorable moment for me.

Who has been your greatest personal (or professional) influence and why?

My grandparents (especially my grandfathers) are my greatest influence. My faith and work ethic come from everything they have taught me. My grandmothers instilled in me the love for my family is one of the most important things that comes in life. My mother has been one of my biggest supporters and motivators in everything I have done. She really has influenced the way that I can communicate with so many different people. Lastly, I would say my wife has influence me into always putting my best into everything that I do.

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