From the President: Water Works

June 12, 2014

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Sandra K. Ralston, WEF President 2013–2014

Sandra K. Ralston, WEF President 2013–2014

Water Works is a headline for the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) water advocacy programs, the new catchphrase of the Value of Water Coalition, and a lesson from Infrastructure Week 2014. Like all good iconic themes, it conjures up multiple messages and meanings with just two words. WEF members are going to be hearing, and hopefully saying, those words a lot as WEF continues expanding programs to achieve one of its key strategic objectives — increase awareness for the value of water.

The “Water Works” phrase grew out of the 2013 National Water Infrastructure Summit, which was sponsored by WEF and drew support from 16 partners and 32 Member Associations (MAs). The event began to coalesce the message that water is not just about public health and the environment, it’s also about the jobs economy. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis:

  • One job in the water and wastewater sector results in 3.68 jobs in the national economy.
  • Each public dollar spent on water and wastewater yields $2.62 in economic output in the economy.

A year later, a number of WEF water advocacy programs are having an effect.

The Water Advocates program is designed to heighten the advocacy skills of WEF members. It gives members the planning tools and materials needed to carry the value-of-water message to public officials who make decisions about supporting water at the federal, state, and local level. As one MA leader said to me, “The training in the Water Advocates program was very useful because it’s not just about talking to your Congressman; it will also help us talk to our local Board about the value of support.” To learn more about the program, watch this WEF webcast and stay up-to-date with program information on the Water Advocates on WEFCOM.

Cordell Samuels, immeditate past president, and Ralston, walk with Operations Challenge team members to visit Capitol Hill during the 2014 National Policy Forum and Fly-In. WEF photo/Nick Bardis.

Cordell Samuels, immeditate past president, and Ralston, walk with Operations Challenge team members to visit Capitol Hill during the 2014 National Policy Forum and Fly-In. WEF photo/Nick Bardis.

Many Water Advocates and other WEF members spread the water works message during Water Week 2014, which included the National Policy Forum and Fly-In, April 7–9 in Washington, D.C. WEF partnered with the Water Environment Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.) and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.) to host the event. About 200 water sector professionals attended to participate in policy programming and visit members of Congress.

The Fly-In program highlighted the need for more robust national policy to protect water resource recovery facilities from the challenges of a growing population and intense effects of climate change. Participating WEF members conveyed the need to reauthorize and fund the State Revolving Fund (SRF) and to pass legislation creating the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA) to their Congressional delegations.

Water Week also included the Capitol Hill Expo, which echoed the Innovation Pavilion at WEFTEC®. The expo brought eight water sector manufacturers to the Rayburn House Office Building to exhibit collection and treatment technologies to U.S. House of Representatives members, Congressional staff, and Capitol Hill visitors. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R–Canton), member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, welcomed the exhibitors and representatives from three Operations Challenge teams. Representatives from one Maryland and two Virginia teams came to Capitol Hill to offer their perspectives about the importance of their profession as operators to the health and economy of local communities.

WEF already is planning Water Week 2015. We hope that even more associations will designate Water Week as a time to plan their advocacy efforts and that more WEF members will attend. The more feet we have walking the halls of Congress, the louder our “one voice” for water will be, and the better our chances are of being heard and influencing legislation and policy.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) has passed out of the Conference Committee and is moving to the House and the Senate for votes on the final reconciled bill. WRRDA is known for its large public, national interest projects managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The draft bill contains a $650 million pilot program for WIFIA and reauthorizes the SRF. WEF and its members have worked hard to make these provisions a legislative reality and should be proud to achieve this measure of success.

The Value of Water Coalition, founded in part by WEF, joined other organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Washington, D.C.), the Metropolitan Policy Program (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Manufacturers (Washington, D.C.), and American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO; Washington, D.C.), for Infrastructure Week 2014, May 12–16. Under the “Water Works” banner, the coalition hosted a signature event for Infrastructure Week that included an in-depth panel discussion with WEF members George Hawkins from DC Water (Washington, D.C.) and Tony Parrot from the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, as well as other leaders from government and the water sector. Panelists discussed the consequences of infrastructure failure for water, the solutions to the national challenge, and the benefits to the national job economy.

It’s working. Say it loud and proud: Water Works!

— Sandra K. Ralston, WEF President 2013–2014

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