Water-sector leaders received a unique opportunity to participate in Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and gain an international perspective on how to ensure a continual supply of safe and reliable water in the future.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA; Washington, D.C.), and Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF; Alexandria, Va.) awarded scholarships to eight sector leaders for travel, lodging, and registration to the event.
“WEF, NACWA, and WERF share a commitment to helping water facilities become water resource recovery facilities that contribute to economic growth and protect public heath and the environment,” said Eileen O’Neill, WEF executive director. The scholarship helps “provide important perspectives and also contacts with other global water utility leaders with similar goals,” she added.
“It is challenging for water utilities to justify sending staff to events like SIWW. And yet it is organizations like mine that will play a key role in moving society toward greater sustainability,” said James McQuarrie from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (Denver) in a letter to the SIWW Scholarship Committee.
McQuarrie said that at the event, he learned that believing in positive outcomes, being transparent with stakeholders, opening lines of communication, and expressing a willingness to collaborate draws creative and talented people to the sector. “What comes in the end are the best, most effective, and most innovative solutions,” McQuarrie said. “I will share the learning and energy from SIWW wherever possible in my organization,” he added.
“Participating in Singapore International Water Week provided a global perspective on water issues and solutions that will have a direct impact on our local water environment,” said participant Louis Storino from Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
“One can’t help but listen to all of these world leaders and ask how we should manage locally, given this global context of population growth, climate change, water and wastewater supply, and infrastructure needs,” said participant Sandra Kilroy, assistant director of King County Wastewater Treatment Division (Seattle). Kilroy also noted the need to analyze whether utilities are doing their best to address these issues and are on the path to becoming utilities of the future. “I am coming home with renewed motivation in addressing these questions,” she said.
The event presented water as “an extremely valuable asset” and emphasized the growing trend toward comprehensive and sustainable water resource management, said Tom Broderick from Loudoun Water (Ashburn, Va.), who also participated.
“The international focus on pressing water quantity and quality issues has driven technology innovation in a collaborative way that could not be conceived of just a decade ago. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and participate with the outstanding professionals that were present,” Broderick said.
At SIWW, scholarship recipients collaborated with water professionals from around the world, exchanged ideas, and discovered that everyone in the sector experiences common water-related challenges.
“I was profoundly moved by how humanity is inextricably linked by our need for safe, resilient, and reliable water systems and the stories from the different countries as they find their water solutions to provide these basic services for people and life,” said participant Diane Taniguchi-Dennis from Clean Water Services (Hillsboro, Ore.).
“I learned a great deal about the desire to innovate in Asia, coupled with the technologies and business models pioneered in the West. Water issues are water issues irrespective of location and we speak a common language,” added Logan Olds from Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (Hesperia, Calif.).
Jay Bernas, with Hampton Roads Sanitation District (Virginia Beach, Va.), called the event an “eye-opening experience” that provided “insight on how other agencies are developing innovative solutions to tackle their water challenges,” he said.
Scholarship recipients joined a delegation of U.S. utility leaders and representatives from the organizations at the event, and will write papers or make presentations to share what they learned.
“Spend a day in Singapore and visit one of its NEWater plants, and you will start believing you can do anything if you work hard enough. The Singapore International Water Week is just as vibrant and vigorous as its host city-nation,” said participant Rajendra P. Bhattarai from Austin (Texas) Water Utility. “Singapore relies on diverse sources of water — stormwater, desalinated sea water, NEWater, and water imported from Malaysia under a contract. All of these are integrated seamlessly into one water,” he said. “If you want to see the future of water, you must come to Singapore,” he added.
The scholarship recipients were
- Jay Bernas, chief of Planning and Analysis for Hampton Roads Sanitation District;
- Rajendra Bhattarai, division manager for Austin Water Utility Environmental and Regulatory Services;
- Tom Broderick, deputy general manager of Operations for Loudoun Water;
- Sandra Kilroy, assistant director of King County Wastewater Treatment Division;
- Jim McQuarrie, division head of Operations for Metro Wastewater Reclamation District;
- Logan Olds, general manager of Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority;
- Louis Storino, principal civil engineer at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; and
- Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, deputy general manager of Clean Water Services.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights