From the President: WEF Fights for Science and Research

December 19, 2017

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Jenny Hartfelder, WEF President 2017–2018

Jenny Hartfelder, WEF President 2017–2018

The collective success of the water sector would be impossible without science and research – the foundation of every drop of clean and reliable water that we provide. Science, research, and other related terms are among the most commonly heard words at any meeting or conference on water issues. Without investment in these areas, we will not be able to promote the recovery of valuable resources from water, use technology to transform infrastructure for the 21st century, or build resilience to the increasing effects of climate change.

That is why the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) boasts a proud legacy of supporting science and research. We are proud that leading researchers have continued to be active in our organization throughout its history. Our members understand the importance of science-based decision-making, maintaining and expanding effective programs, and providing a platform for constructive debate.

For decades, WEF, its members, and our network of Member Associations (MAs) have promoted funding and policies that advance water science and research. We have advocated in the U.S. Congress, met with government officials, allocated funds toward projects, supported research foundations, and partnered with other organizations. All of this has been done to protect the bedrock of our work as water professionals.

Some have suggested that we have not communicated these efforts widely enough, particularly during the new administration, when support for science and research has declined. However, WEF has been very active in arguing against roll-backs and funding cuts, both broadly and on an issue-by-issue basis. Here are just a few examples:

  • WEF sent a letter to then-President-Elect Donald Trump emphasizing sound science and the need to bolster research and development. Congress also received letters sent or cosigned by WEF asking for increased water infrastructure funding and full funding for core programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies conducting research. WEF staff also met with members of Congress and committees with relevant jurisdictions to express support for these positions. 
  • For Water Week 2017, WEF and eight other national water associations drafted a joint document requesting that Congress and the administration fully fund EPA’s National Priorities Research Funding program. WEF took the lead on a separate fact sheet on climate change as an additional resource for 400 congressional office visits completed by our members and those from other water associations. 
  • An ongoing call-to-action through WEF’s grassroots Water Advocates program urges WEF’s members to write to Congress arguing against cuts to EPA and other federal programs. More than 230 of these letters already have been sent to members of Congress. WEF staff also have directly advocated in opposition to the cuts. Efforts seem to have been successful since it appears that most of the funding will be restored during the current final negotiations of the final FY18 budget. 
  • A discussion of the policy-versus-science debate appeared in the April 2017 issue of Water Environment & Technology magazine. The story, “Science first,” describes how WEF and similar organizations want sound science and transparency to be the norm.
  • A recent letter urged Congress to protect funding for federal research that is critical to addressing challenges facing the nation’s water resources. WEF requested that funding be increased or at least maintained for water research programs at EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, National Science Foundation, and Bureau of Reclamation.

WEF also applauded the recent announcement that the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF; Alexandria, Va.) and Water Research Foundation (Denver) would merge into one water research organization, The Water Research Foundation. Both foundations have a rich history of effective and impactful research supporting the water profession. Their integration will undoubtedly create more synergy and lead to fruitful partnerships.

WEF and its members supported the founding of WE&RF, previously known as the Water Environment Research Foundation, in 1989. This shows WEF’s long-standing commitment to research and innovation. WEF has maintained a close, productive relationship with the organization, including nominating representatives to its board. At WEFTEC 2017, the WEF Board of Trustees approved a $75,000 donation to support WE&RF research. WEF looks forward to strong collaboration with the new Water Research Foundation.

All parts of the water sector and WEF’s membership, including utility managers, facility operators, engineers, scientists, regulators, and students, share in the benefits of research and innovation. Together, we need to support robust science and advocate for research funding, and let the water sector know about our efforts.

Jenny Hartfelder, WEF President 2017–2018

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