NEWEA Merger Closes Distance Between Practitioners and Innovators

February 13, 2020

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At the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in January, the organization formally announced a merger with the North East Water Innovation Network (NEWIN). The partnership will accelerate the development and implementation of new technologies by breaking down barriers between water and wastewater treatment practitioners and the businesses that support them. Image courtesy of NEWEA

For years, the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) and the North East Water Innovation Network (NEWIN) have served two critical segments of the northeastern U.S. water sector. NEWEA, a Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Member Association, supports practitioners on the frontlines of water and wastewater treatment while technology accelerator NEWIN provides resources for the entrepreneurs and businesses advancing the way these practitioners protect public health and the environment.

At NEWEA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in January, leaders of both organizations finalized a merger. Former NEWIN members are now NEWEA members, enjoying expanded access to NEWEA and WEF professional development programming as well as closer collaboration with the local water professionals who help test and support new products and projects.

Closer Collaboration Streamlines Innovation

NEWEA’s Innovation Task Force and the former NEWIN Board of Directors will combine to become the NEWEA Innovation Council, focused on facilitating the development and adoption of new treatment technologies, methods, and policies. Marianne Langridge, founder of Sustainable Synthesis Ltd. (Denver, Colo.) and a member of NEWEA and WEF, will lead the new Innovation Council.

Breaking down the barriers between practitioners and innovators will benefit both groups, Langridge described.

“Most NEWEA members are resource-constrained and do not have the research and development resources to experiment and develop solutions for their challenges,” Langridge said. While operators and other water resource recovery facility (WRRF) staff might recognize the need for better solutions to issues, such as treating a specific contaminant or analyzing complex facility data, they often have difficulty in relaying those needs to the people and businesses equipped to address them. Likewise, these people and businesses require input from practitioners to ensure their solutions are as useful as possible.

“The feedback we have heard from many innovators is that they need to be able to test their products, services, and ideas. Once a potential solution evolves from a theory to something testable, the more timely that testing and experimentation can begin, the faster that solutions can be brought to market,” Langridge said. “[The NEWEA-NEWIN merger] will be a win-win for all sectors of the industry and, ultimately, to the health and well-being of our communities.”

Specifically, the new NEWEA Innovation Council will:

  • perform outreach activities that build and reinforce connections between utilities, regulators, academics, and innovators;
  • spread information about new innovations in water utility management as well as infrastructure design and construction throughout the New England water sector; and
  • educate both members and the general public about the water sector’s current technical, legislative, financial, and regulatory needs to support innovation.

Smooth Integration

The merger process was relatively painless, Langridge said.

The idea of a merger first came up in conversation between NEWEA and NEWIN leadership in Spring 2018. It was then approved by NEWEA’s Executive Committee in June 2019, and by the NEWIN Board of Directors in September 2019. During the final days of 2019, both organizations came together to focus on detailed planning, which involved integrating marketing and communications efforts, finances, and membership benefits.

Former NEWIN members will join the NEWEA Innovation Task Force, forming a single body known as the NEWEA Innovation Council. The council will perform research, development, and outreach activities to help spur innovation in the New England water sector. Image courtesy of NEWEA

The organizations participated in a final vote during NEWEA’s January conference, and NEWEA President Raymond Vermette formally announced the merger during the conference’s Opening General Session.

“There were not any major obstacles. It just took time to build understanding within each organization about the benefits to members,” said Langridge. “NEWIN’s membership structure was designed for businesses while NEWEA’s membership is for an individual. Developing a mechanism to support both and develop programming that is of interest to both types of members took some time to articulate and will continue to evolve.”

In the coming months, NEWEA will offer a new type of partnership opportunity for companies of all sizes interested in helping to accelerate water-sector innovation. As the Innovation Council’s membership grows, NEWEA also plans to create new, dedicated subcommittees to better address specific challenges.

Visit the NEWEA website for more information about the Innovation Council.

— Justin JacquesWEF Highlights

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