From the President: Reflecting on an Industry of Change and Looking to the Future

September 10, 2012

Participate, WEF Resources & Efforts

Matt Bond, 2011–2012 WEF President

Matt Bond, 2011-2012 WEF President

As I write this, the days are ticking down to WEFTEC® 2012 in New Orleans, where my time as Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) president ends. It has been an incredible journey. While nothing prepares you for the vast amount of travel and interaction with global water-sector leaders and partners, the experience has been wonderful. And much of my enjoyment can be attributed to discussions about WEF’s new strategic direction, which launched in February to address the challenges and opportunities facing the water sector.

The public often does not recognize how critical water infrastructure is, how we are not paying for the full cost of service, or investing to maintain aging infrastructure. And even though our investments in the latter half of the 20th century have resulted in significant improvements in water quality, now we have to address new challenges, such as urban wet weather runoff and nutrients in waterways.

But there are exciting new opportunities, such as harnessing the energy potential in wastewater and recovering vital nutrients in our wastestreams. And even though addressing water issues often has lacked a coordinated effort, WEF is stepping up to provide bold leadership, releasing initiatives to invigorate stakeholders and inspire progress. Our new Mission Statement challenges us to “provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide.”

Following a comprehensive strategic planning effort, we took the following steps to improve WEF’s organization and operations:

  • The size of the WEF Board of Trustees will be reduced from 18 to 12 members in the next 2 years. And the nomination process for new members will be more inclusive and transparent, focusing on required skills and competencies. This proves that the board is prepared to lead by example and become more nimble, and the WEF membership has agreed, with a more than 90% constitution and bylaws approval rating.
  • Staff has nearly completed a comprehensive business plan to match critical objectives and initiatives identified in the new strategic direction. Products and services are being evaluated and performance objectives are being established to track progress toward meeting goals.
  • The board is working directly with the WEF House of Delegates and staff to improve communications and assist delegates in their roles of advising on strategic direction and soliciting input from WEF Members Associations (MAs) and other constituencies.

The Committee Leadership Council is engaged in business planning evaluations to determine how our talented volunteers can best advance our strategic direction and capitalize on innovation opportunities.

By focusing on the new strategic direction, WEF has already seen results in the three critical objectives of increasing awareness of the value of water, driving innovation in the water sector, and enriching the expertise of global water professionals.

Increase awareness of the value of water

WEF’s WATER’S WORTH IT™ messaging campaign is a visible sign of WEF’s commitment to educating the public about issues and challenges facing the water sector. The campaign already has generated a buzz among MAs, other organizations, municipalities, and the public. The message is being used at MA conferences and events, in public awareness campaigns, and as educational tools on the Cable–Satellite Public Affairs Network (Washington, D.C.) and electronic billboards at the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400.

In cooperation with many MAs, WEF has launched an outreach effort to bring water infrastructure into political discussions during the 2012 U.S. election season. Because water infrastructure investment creates jobs, drives innovation, and safeguards public health, it is essential to prosperity and ultimately is a driver for economic recovery. The WEF Water Advocates program is focusing on training and providing resources to members on technical and policy issues so they can be more effective in dialogues with local and state political officials.

Drive innovation in the water sector

WEF is focusing on innovation to help change the industry’s mind-set. WEF believes that “wastewater treatment plants are NOT waste disposal but rather water resource recovery facilities that produce clean water, recover nutrients, and have the potential to reduce the nation’s dependence upon fossil fuel,” according to the “WEF Renewable Energy Generation from Wastewater” position statement. In July, the board directed WEF to start using the term “water resource recovery facility” instead of wastewater treatment plant in publications.

We have achieved significant progress establishing goals, creating a road map to move water resource recovery facilities from energy consumers to energy producers. The road map will provide a framework for agencies to measure themselves in several areas, including energy conservation, energy production, policies, and regulations. Best practices from around the world will be described to help facilities advance their programs and meet resource recovery goals.

In addition, all of WEF’s conferences provide the opportunity for water-sector professionals to learn about innovative practices. And WEFTEC 2012 will include an Innovation Pavilion featuring educational displays and presentations, as well as award presentations, that will be open to all attendees on the exhibition floor. The pavilion will provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect with financiers.

Enrich the expertise of global water professionals

WEF also has an increased focused on providing tools for members to advance their careers and increase their influence on water policy. New member benefits include the WEFCOM collaboration platform, which connects members in a social online environment, increasing networking and the transfer of knowledge. And WEF’s Utility Partnership Program (UPP) provides streamlined membership with packages tailored to the needs of a utility and discounts for utility employees. WEF’s webcasts, which provide current information on technical and management topics, are another popular online resource now offered at no cost.

WEF’s leaders must continue these efforts, implementing additional improvements and continuing to embrace the new strategic direction in the upcoming program year.

 — Matt Bond, 2011–2012 WEF President

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