Jackie O’Brien is the Chief Executive Officer of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a nonprofit recognized as a Charity of Choice by the Water Environment Federation. In this episode Jackie explains how EWB and its 10,000 volunteers work in communities around the world to help provide basic human services including water. She talks about starting as CEO during the past year and how the organization has recalibrated in the midst of the pandemic. Jackie also discusses opportunities for volunteering and how WEF members can get involved in EWB.
Frank Houston is Senior Regional Manager for the Eastern U.S. for DN Tanks and Alan Parent is Director of Business Development and Laura Simmers is Preconstruction Coordinator for PC Construction. In this episode Frank, Alan, and Laura talk about a $271 million bio-energy project at a Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s facility in Piscataway, Md. They explain the benefits of extensive collaboration in the project, the design-build process, and advancement of biosolids and energy generation, as well as how these are broader trends and opportunities for the water sector. Frank, Alan, and Laura also discuss the deliberate use of woman- and minority owned businesses in the project.
Emily Feenstra is the Managing Director for Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers. In this episode Emily discusses the decision to add stormwater to ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card, particularly because of data collection by the Water Environment Federation and National Municipal Stormwater Alliance. She talks about the how the report card is produced and used, as well as the recent grades for water infrastructure. Emily also outlines how the report card has impacted public opinion, policy, and funding over the years.
Jackie Jarrell is the new President of the Board of Trustees of the Water Environment Federation and Operations Chief at Charlotte Water. In this episode Jackie talks about the value of WEF membership, including how networking and educational opportunities fueled her professional growth. She says that expanding the water workforce, increasing diversity and inclusion, and gaining attention for operators are among her priorities for WEF during the upcoming year. Jackie also discusses why she enjoys working at Charlotte Water and the benefits of engaging with the water sector in other countries.
Dr. Jason He is a Professor of Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech and the new Editor-In-Chief of the Water Environment Research (WER) Journal. In this episode, Jason explains that while it is an exciting time to be water research, it can be challenging to address all the areas of need, such as on emerging contaminants, and to secure funding. He also discusses the history and importance of WER to the water sector, as well as the overall role of peer-reviewed journals in providing high-quality research. Jason talks about recent changes to the journal, including a publishing partnership with Wiley, a new editorial board, and an emphasis on practical research, case studies, and viewpoint columns.
InFLOW is a new program from the Water Environment Federation that stands for Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water. In this episode, WEF staff Morgan Brown and Rahkia Nance explain that InFLOW identifies promising students from underrepresented minority groups who are interested in professional careers in the water industry and provides them scholarships to attend WEFTEC. In its first year, 16 students from Howard University, Tuskegee University, and the University of South Florida participated in the program. Three of those students – Maya Carrasquillo, Sigmund Skinner, and Faith Oviawe – discuss their experiences with InFLOW and perspectives on water careers.
Jenelle Armstrong is the Utility Division Manager of The Thrasher Group. In this episode, Jenelle talks about how her time at the U.S. Naval Academy shaped her views on leadership and prepared her to be a woman in the male-dominated water industry. She also explains why military veterans make outstanding employees and are a great fit for the water sector, particularly because of their skill set, problem-solving ability, and public service mindset. Jenelle discusses the experience of living through the 2014 drinking water crisis in Charleston, West Virginia and what led her to create the hashtag #WipesClogPipes.
Matt Streicher is the Treasurer and Liz Heise is the Marketing Chair for the Global Water Stewardship. In this episode, Matt and Liz discuss the Global Water Stewardship, a volunteer organization that is working in Costa Rica to address sanitation and environmental challenges that stem from decentralized treatment, inadequate septic systems, and a lack of advanced treatment. They explain how volunteers help design systems to treat wastewater and train local residents to serve as operators. Matt and Liz also talk about the organization’s work to educate local people in Costa Rica about the issues, which includes paying a sewer bill. Donations to Global Water Stewardship help in these efforts.
Eleanor Allen is the CEO of Water For People. In this episode, Eleanor explains the organization’s model of water for Everyone Forever, which has to date provided service to 3.3 million people. She also discusses the nonprofit’s unique niche among global water charities, including how they bring together entrepreneurs, community members, and local governments to build and deliver water and sanitation services. Donations to Water For People help in these efforts.
Dr. Art Umble leads the Global Wastewater Practice for Stantec Consulting. In this episode, Art explains the concept of the circular economy, including its origins in the 1960s and how it has evolved over the years. He discusses the level of support for a circular economy in the water sector and in industry, businesses, and government. Art also talks about the idea of biomimicry, which involves using nature as the model for designs and systems.
Ronit Erlitzki is the Director of Business Development and Innovation and Richard Cavagnaro is the Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications at AdEdge Water Technologies. In this episode, Ronit and Richard discuss how the state of science and technology make it an exciting time to work in water and how scientists and engineers are actually creative people. They talk about several hot issues including emerging contaminants such as PFOA and PFOS, the evolution of desalination, transferring technology to the market, and showcasing water careers to the next generation.
David Wachal is the Director of the Esri Global Water Practice. In this episode, David talks about the digital transformation of the water sector, including the rise of location intelligence and the creation of digital twins of water systems. He also discusses ways that utilities are using GIS data, such as to gain real-time insight into operations or to address affordability concerns. David adds his thoughts on the workforce implications of the digital era and his perspective on the rate of digitization around the globe.
Ghassan Korban is the new Executive Director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. In this episode, Ghassan discusses the work needed to improve water infrastructure in New Orleans, which he says includes reinvesting to create a system for the next 50 to 100 years, particularly to deal with flooding. He acknowledges the unique nature of New Orleans’ infrastructure and the special spotlight on the city. Ghassan also talks about the benefits of green infrastructure, the challenge of shaping a workforce, and creating a better image for the utility.
Tom Kunetz is the new President of the Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Assistant Director of Monitoring and Research for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). In this episode, Tom discusses his priorities for the next year as WEF President, which include increasing the diversity of the water workforce and expanding resource recovery by utilities. He also talks about his work at MWRD, the rebound of the Chicago River, and his involvement in comedy.
Joe Witlox is the Director of Decentralized Water and Wastewater Solutions at Newterra. In this episode, Joe explains the challenges that small communities face with wastewater treatment and how decentralized technology can be used to provide essential services. He also talks about the concept of modular design, which allows for incremental and cost-effective expansion of treatment as communities grow.
Dinesh Kumar is the India Market Manager for TrojanUV and Wayne Lem is the Municipal Market Manager for TrojanUV. In this episode, Dinesh discusses the importance of the Ganges River to the people of India and the major effort underway to reduce pollution in the river, which includes new wastewater discharge standards. Wayne explains the role of TrojanUV in raising public awareness about disinfection and the construction of treatment plants in communities along the Ganges.
Chris Mahoney is the Vice President of Capital Markets for Andritz Separation Technologies. In this episode, Chris shares his perspective on how the goals of water treatment have changed over the past several decades, including the shift from basic treatment to resource recovery. He explains the important role of equipment such as screens, thickeners, and driers in the mechanics of water treatment. Chris also discusses how Andritz’s work in the water sector benefits from its work in industries such as pulp and paper, mining and minerals, and chemicals.
Kevin Marsh is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for FlowWorks. In this episode, Kevin discusses how big data and machine learning can now be used to improve the information on stormwater impacts on collections systems. Instead of the traditional approach of conducting flow studies and waiting for results, a new tool called Infinitii I&I provides on-going, real-time access to data needed characterize a system’s wet weather response, evaluate needs, and predict performance. Kevin also talks about a new public notification system for combined sewer overflow events and how utilities can benefit from a flood risk forecasting tool.
Paul Bowen is Water and Wastewater Technology Manager for the Coca-Cola North American Supply Chain and former President of the Board of Trustees of the Water Environment Federation. In this episode, Paul explains the increased focus on water sustainability at Coca-Cola over the past 15 years, which was spurred by an examination of water risk in the 200 countries it operates. He talks about the importance of relationships with water utilities, the wastewater requirements for bottlers, and the opportunity to reuse treated water for non-potable operations. Paul also reflects on the value of volunteering with WEF and his tenure on the Board.
WEFTEC, the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference, is the largest annual water quality event in the world. This year it will be held September 29 to October 3 in New Orleans. In this episode, WEF staff provide a preview of WEFTEC, including highlights of the conference program, the new additions to the exhibit floor, what to expect at the opening session, and how to use the app to navigate the event.
Kishia Powell is the Commissioner of the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management. In this episode, Kishia talks about the utility’s new $1 billion, five-year capital improvement plan. She discusses Atlanta’s extensive use of green infrastructure, including using it to create public spaces such as the Historic Fourth Ward Park and to educate citizens on water management. Kishia also explains the importance of community involvement in the planning process and how the utility is focused on equity across neighborhoods.
Sidney Innerebner is the Owner of Indigo Water Group and Author of Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals. In this episode, Sidney discusses how the new Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals provide a one-stop shop for operators to gain the information needed to do their jobs. She talks about how the book features an array of pictures, graphics, terminology, and practice questions for certification exams. Sidney also explains how the book represents the highest standard of what is known about wastewater treatment.
Manon Fisher is a resource recovery specialist with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. In this episode, Manon discusses the role of biosolids in addressing climate change — including through carbon sequestration – and in building environmental literacy in a community. She also talks about the path ahead for SFPUC to transition to the highest class of biosolids.
Tim Thomure is the Director of Tucson Water in Arizona. In this episode, Tim discusses how a heavy focus on reclaiming and reusing water in the desert has enabled Tucson and Pima County to transition off groundwater and recharge the aquifer. He also talks about the work to develop a regulatory framework for direct potable reuse in Arizona so communities will have the option if necessary. Additionally, Tim explains the growth of green infrastructure in Tucson as a way to capture precious rainfall and reduce the heat island effect.
John Willis is Vice President of Wastewater Solutions at Brown and Caldwell. In this episode, John discusses the generation of biogas by the water sector and the opportunity to increase production, particularly for vehicle fuel. He also talks about the value of biosolids and importance of regular dialogue with the media and public. John additionally explains the enormous potential of anaerobic primary treatment to drive water utilities to net zero, an innovative process inspired by work by the Gates Foundation in the developing world.
Lebron James is a free agent and choosing where to play basketball next season. What if he factored the city’s water utilities and water bodies into the decision? In this episode, we discuss a few of the attributes and programs of the five cities that sports experts predict as the most likely destinations for Lebron – Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, and Boston. Disclaimer: Lebron is unfortunately not a guest on this episode.
Jeff Prevatt is the Deputy Director of Treatment, Research, and Innovation for Water Reclamation in Pima County, Arizona. In this episode, Jeff shares his perspective on the future of direct potable reuse of water, explains how the AZ Pure Water Brew Challenge used beer to raise public awareness, and talks about the innovative research underway at the new WEST Center, a facility opened in partnership with the University of Arizona and Dow.
Al Cho is the Vice President of Advanced Infrastructure Analytics at Xylem, Inc. In this episode, Al discusses the use of smart technologies in monitoring, assessing, and decision-making for water infrastructure. He also explains the new Intelligent Water Systems Challenge and offers his thoughts on remote sensing, automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
Ned Beecher is the Executive Director of the North East Biosolids & Residuals Association. In this episode, Ned discusses the many benefits of biosolids, including diverting waste from landfills, improving agricultural production, restoring land damaged by mining and fires, and remediating Superfund sites. He also talks about safety issues around emerging contaminants and the role of biosolids in addressing climate change.
Kathryn Sorenson is the Director of Phoenix Water Services. In this episode, Kathryn discusses how the utility collects, distributes, and treats water in the desert home of the fifth-most populated city in the United States. She also talks about how Phoenix has decreased water consumption and replenished vital groundwater, the continuation of ancient Native American practices for moving water via canals, the oasis known as the Tres Rios wetlands, and a new biogas project that means all resources are recovered at the city’s largest treatment plant.
Dr. Bruce Rittmann is the director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. He was named the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for revolutionizing water and wastewater treatment. In this episode, Bruce discusses how his first job at a wastewater plant shaped his career, the cutting-edge use of microbial communities to convert pollutants into resources, and how mathematical modeling can improve the treatment process.
The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) is a new jobs program that provides training and certification in the field of green infrastructure. NGICP establishes national requirements for working on green infrastructure projects, promotes a skilled green workforce, streamlines the process of connecting qualified talent to in-demand jobs, and supports community-based job creation in U.S. cities. This episode features conversations with several people involved with NGICP including program director Adriana Calderelli.
Abigail Gardner is the communications adviser for the Value of Water Campaign and U.S. Water Alliance. In this episode, Abigail talks about the results of a new public opinion poll that found 88 percent of voters support increasing federal investment to rebuild America’s water infrastructure and how that support cuts across age, gender, political party, and geography. She also discusses how results have changed over time, findings on drinking water behavior, and the public’s priorities for wastewater utilities.
Joe Kane is a senior research associate and associate fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. In this episode, Joe discusses the key findings of his research on national and local water use patterns in the U.S., how stormwater utilities offer resilient options for communities, and expanded opportunity through infrastructure jobs. He also talks about his ongoing research on the water workforce and offers his perspective on the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Karen Pallansch is the CEO of Alexandria Renew Enterprises in Virginia. In this episode, Karen talks about the Utility of the Future concept and how wastewater treatment plants are transforming into water resource recovery facilities. She also discusses how AlexRenew embodies a Utility of the Future, particularly through its community engagement, watershed stewardship, and recovery of resources such as water, energy, and nutrients. AlexRenew is one of about 80 utilities that have earned recognition as a Utility of the Future Today.
Robert Puente is the President and CEO of the San Antonio Water System. In this episode, Robert explains how San Antonio gained its reputation for water efficiency and conservation, including how they keep the famous River Walk flowing and why they have an 11-foot model of a low-flow toilet. He also discusses the competition for water resources in Texas, which has led the city to keep a close eye on aquifers and build a desalination plant.
John Albert is the Chief Research Officer for The Water Research Foundation. In this episode, John discusses the recent merger of two nonprofit research organizations that created The Water Research Foundation. He also talks about new focus areas of water research, including the workforce of the future, affordability of rates, emerging contaminants, and transformative technology like robotics, drones, and virtual reality.
Melissa Pomales is based in Puerto Rico as a Water Program Management Leader for Arcadis. In this episode, Melissa tells her personal and professional stories of the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on her home island. She talks about the estimated $700 million in damage to water infrastructure, the opportunity – and necessity – for Puerto Rico to rebuild in a resilient manner, and how climate change is fueling sea level rise, coastal erosion, and stronger storms.
Paul O’Callaghan is the founder of BlueTech Research and the CEO of O2 Environmental. In this episode, Paul shares his unique insights on water technology, including what makes something innovative, how water technology is connected to trends in the larger economy, the rate of change in the water sector, and how water fares compared to traditional success/failure rates in venture capital.
Jennifer Walsh is a senior principal engineer with Hazen and Sawyer. In this episode, Jennifer explains why young people should consider a career in the water sector, how involvement in organizations like the Water Environment Federaton provides vital professional development, the strengths of millennials that employers should utilize, and her experience working on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the UNLEASH program.
Michael Murphy is the Director of Water Innovation at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. In this episode, Michael talks about the water-energy nexus, the need to innovate the public’s relationship with water, the challenge of getting new technology widely adopted, and the idea of a systems benefit charge on water bills to fund innovation.
Hurricane Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain and caused catastrophic flooding in Houston, resulting in $125 billion in damage. In this episode, employees of Houston Water in the areas of operations, maintenance, and electrical share their insider stories, including how they prepared for the hurricane, what happened during the storm, and how the recovery went.
Carla Reid is the General Manager and CEO of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which serves 1.8 million people. In this episode, Carla discusses her journey “from CE to CEO.” She also talks about what leadership means to her, the rise of women in the water workforce, the importance of mentorship, and introducing young people to water careers.
Fredi Lajvardi is a nationally recognized STEM educator and subject of the critically acclaimed documentary Underwater Dreams and major motion picture Spare Parts, as well as the IMAX film Dream Big. In this episode, Fredi tells how he led his team of disadvantaged teenagers in an underwater robotics competition, where they defeated leading schools, including top-ranked MIT. He talks about building students’ interest in STEM careers and the changes needed in the education system.
Andrew Sawyers is the Director of the Office of Wastewater Management at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this episode, Andrew discusses infrastructure finance, including the status of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, implementation of WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act), EPA’s technical assistance programs, and the agency’s perspective on public-private partnerships.
Ken Kopocis spent nearly three decades in Congress in senior staff positions for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, served several years as head of EPA’s Office of Water, and taught water law at American University. In this episode, Ken provides perspective on the 45th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, including the law’s origins, history, strengths and weaknesses, and future.
Sue Murphy is the CEO of the Water Corporation in Western Australia. In this episode, Sue talks about managing a utility that serves 2.5 million people spread across 2.5 million square kilometers, the increase of water scarcity from climate change in Western Australia, and her journey in engineering and the water sector.
Mark Jockers is the Government and Public Affairs Manager for Clean Water Services in Hillsboro, Oregon. Over some cold cans of Pure Water Brew, Mark discusses how beer brewed with highly purified water from wastewater treatment plants is raising public awareness about the potential for water reuse, the flurry of utilities and brewers collaborating over the past few years, and the recent launch of the Pure Water Brewing Alliance.
Radhika Fox is the CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance and Director of the Value of Water Campaign. In this episode, Radhika discusses what is meant by the phrase “value of water,” a report on the economic benefits of investing in water infrastructure, and the results of public opinion polls on water infrastructure.
Matt Ries is the Chief Technical Officer at the Water Environment Federation, but will soon join DC Water as its first Chief of Water Quality and Watershed Management. In this episode, Matt discusses the meaning of the term sustainability, how big data is changing the water sector, the shift to resource recovery by water treatment plants, and how the position at WEF was so unique and impactful.
Jenny Hartfelder is the new President of the Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation and is a Vice President/National Campaign Manager for Stantec. In this episode, Jenny talks about the importance of mentorship, the need to build a more diverse workforce, the increase of women in engineering, and her priorities for WEF over the next year.
Imagine A Day Without Water is a day of public awareness and education about the vital role of water and of the water infrastructure that moves and treats it. In this episode, host Travis Loop interviews people from his community about their connections to water and infrastructure. Visits include a utility, environmental group, surf shop, school, and brewery. His six-year-old son Jack even provides some perspective. Learn more at imagineadaywithoutwater.org
Philippe Cousteau is co-founder and president of EarthEcho International, and a television host, producer, author, philanthropist, and social entrepreneur. Philippe is the grandson of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In this episode, he discusses the importance of youth education, the impacts of water infrastructure around the world, and the pressures of climate change on water resources.
Rudy Chow is the Director of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. In this episode, Rudy talks about the workforce challenges of the water sector, how Baltimore is working to build interest in water careers and develop employees, and the role water can play in economic growth.
George Hawkins is the CEO and General Manager of DC Water, as well as a high-profile, articulate leader in the water sector. In this episode, George talks about why Blue Plains is considered the world’s largest advanced wastewater treatment plant, the importance of communicating to the public, and his decision to step down at the end of the year. He also chats about his breakdancing talents, which he showed off at a DC Water holiday party.
Kevin Shafer is the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the chair of both the U.S. Water Alliance’s One Water Council and the Water Environment Research Federation. In this episode, Kevin discusses the one water concept, Milwaukee’s focus on green infrastructure and research, and brewing beer…with purified wastewater.
Eileen O’Neill is the Executive Director of the Water Environment Federation. In this episode of Words On Water, O’Neill discusses her background in the water sector, what it is like to lead an organization with 34,000 water professionals as members, and the opportunities and challenges she sees facing water in the 21st century.