From the President: Continuous Improvement Drives Success

February 24, 2015


Ed McCormick, WEF President 2014–2015

Ed McCormick, WEF President 2014–2015

Any organization’s measure of success lies in how well it accomplishes its mission. The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), a global water sector leader, has a mission that includes four key components:

  • connect water professionals,
  • provide a platform for water sector innovation,
  • enrich the expertise of water professionals, and
  • increase the awareness of the impact and value of water.

Since 1928, WEF and its members have been trusted stewards for protecting public health and the environment. During the past 85 years, longevity and quality of life has increased, due to, in part, a significant reduction in waterborne disease by providing clean, safe water and sanitation. Water professionals work to improve water quality, which improves our quality of life. However, we still have a long way to go in many developing countries.

The water sector is experiencing a rapid transformation from treatment to water resource recovery. The speed of change in our sector is accelerating, making the need for leadership through continuous improvement an absolute necessity.

The good news is that collectively we are rising to the challenge. Leading utilities and environmental consulting firms in the water sector are hiring “directors of innovation.” Triple-bottom-line and life-cycle cost analyses are becoming important decision-making processes. In the 1990s, we changed our perspectives and began using the terms biosolids instead of sludge and water environment instead of water pollution control. Now utilities are rapidly rebranding to embrace the environmental, economic, and societal benefits of viewing waste as resources.

Through its mission, WEF is helping lead the sector into this new world that provides a vision for the Utility of the Future. All of WEF’s resources, including more than 2000 members working through 42 WEF committees as well as the WEF House of Delegates and WEF Board of Trustees, are focused on one or more of our four mission components. WEF is driven to provide exceptional member value to each of WEF’s 35,000 members through continuous improvement of relevant, practical, and valued products and services, as our world moves toward recovering resources.

Connecting water professionals

A high level of member engagement is one of WEF’s strongest attributes as an organization. Much of WEF’s strong credibility with regulators and legislators comes from the technical expertise and water sector leadership of our highly engaged volunteers. These volunteers, working with talented WEF staff, are the “engine” that generate high quality products.

Member engagement also includes convening diverse groups of water leaders and subject-matter experts for conferences on such important issues as nutrients, collection systems, biosolids, and energy and resource recovery. These educational events result in concise, practical guidance that helps create a path forward for members that include small, medium, and large utilities; environmental consultants; academics; and regulators.

During my career, the level of passion and camaraderie that I have experienced working as a volunteer in many different water organizations has played a key role in my growth as a water professional. I encourage you to actively participate by joining a WEF committee or a WEF Member Association committee, participating in WEF’s free webcasts, and engaging with others at WEF’s world class conferences. Both you and the water sector will benefit.

Providing a platform for water sector innovation

Visionary leaders and innovators like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Benjamin Franklin didn’t change the world by thinking “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Instead, they focused on improving everyday life.

It is clear that water professionals’ needs for innovative solutions are evolving rapidly as we strive toward creating water resource recovery facilities that produce such products as reclaimed water, renewable energy, transportation fuel, fertilizer, soil amendments, and phosphorous. Accelerating the transition from treatment to resource recovery is one of WEF’s highest priorities. The Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT), a WEF and Water Environment Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.) initiative, provides one example of how we are collaborating with others to create value for members.

Enriching the expertise of water professionals

The services and products WEF provides to enrich water professionals’ expertise include

WEF extends its reach globally through partnerships with such organizations as the Japan Sewage Works Association (Tokyo), European Water Partnership (Brussels), PUB Singapore, and Stockholm International Water Institute, to help bring the world’s best ideas and technologies to members.

Increasing the awareness of the impact and value of water

In my home state of California, we are entering the fourth year of a drought. Texas, Nevada, and several other states also have been experiencing a very serious drought. In addition, the U.S. has a 10-year, $600 billion funding gap in water resource recovery facilities that will require a huge investment commitment to help protect public health and the environment going forward. It is paramount to increase both the public’s knowledge of the value of water and the need for resilient water infrastructure and the public officials’ and elected representatives’ awareness of the importance for upgrading and replacing water infrastructure.

WEF is participating actively in the Value of Water Coalition, a water-sector wide initiative that offers a single voice to educate about the importance of reliably delivering clean and safe water and wastewater treatment and the need for investing in infrastructure to ensure these services continue in the future. In addition, WEF has more than 50 programs that support one or more components of its mission. Staff and volunteers remain committed to continuous improvement in each of the four areas.

Send any ideas for how WEF can continue to improve our products and services to me at

Ed McCormick, WEF President 2014–2015

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