Meet the Clean Water Professionals of Kentucky & Tennessee

November 13, 2019

WEF Resources & Efforts

Water Environment Association of Kentucky & Tennessee changes its name, encourages others to do the same

Words are powerful. When the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) promoted a subtle shift in terminology from wastewater treatment plant to water resource recovery facility in 2013, for example, the organization formally recognized a long-underway change in focus from the problems water professionals solve to the products of their work.

The Water Environment Association of Kentucky & Tennessee made a similar move in October 2019, changing its name to the Clean Water Professionals of Kentucky & Tennessee (CWP-KT).

“It’s time to explain what we really do,” said Valerie Lucas, CWP-KT executive director. “Most workers in the water environment field know that we, above all else, clean water. So why are we still calling ourselves wastewater professionals? We don’t waste water – we clean water. That’s why we have chosen to be the Clean Water Professionals.”


Enlisting Partners To Spread the Message

The name change comes at a pivotal point for the U.S. water sector, as the Water Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.) projects as much as one-third of the nation’s water professionals will retire within the coming years. Efforts to improve perception of the work water professionals perform aim to increase the number of applicants interested in filling those positions.

In October, the Water Environment Association of Kentucky & Tennessee became the Clean Water Professionals of Kentucky & Tennessee. The move underscores how the terminology the water sector uses influences public perception, affecting recruitment rates, customer approval, legislative priorities, and more. Photo courtesy of Clean Water Professionals of Kentucky & Tennessee.

CWP-KT has led other local efforts to change the water sector’s image through its Clean Water Movement campaign. The campaign enlists water utilities throughout Kentucky and Tennessee who commit to collaborating with the association and each other on public outreach activities. Common activities under the Clean Water Movement are both internal, such as changing job titles from wastewater operator to clean water operator, and external, such as updating marketing materials with new terminology and making appearances at community events.

Several utilities in Kentucky and Tennessee already have signed on, and CWP-KT’s name change is likely to attract additional partners, said Shannon Lambert, CWP-KT president.

“The truth is, we’re a more powerful force of change when we work together. It’s time to change the face of water,” Lambert said. “This collaboration is about leveraging our work for the good of our communities. This partnership is about remembering our purpose and our passion to provide clean water for all.”

Member utilities receive specialized resources that help facilitate cultural changes, according to a CWP-KT press release. These include “monthly internal training and public education materials, partnership designation, and participation in collaborative initiatives.”

Visit for more information about how using the right terminology can attract greater understanding and acceptance of the water treatment profession.

— Justin JacquesWEF Highlights

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