Editor's Letter: Incoming AWWA President Emphasizes Education as a Top Priority

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Last month, AWWA's Annual Conference & Expo took place in Boston, drawing an estimated 11,000 attendees to Beantown. Based on our conversations at the show, we got the impression that exhibitors were pretty happy with traffic this year. In general, the crowd seemed upbeat and energetic.

For me, personally, the event was particularly rewarding. We had an opportunity this year to conduct editorial video interviews - fifteen of them - with a variety of notable attendees. While I enjoyed all of my guests, I was particularly excited to have an opportunity to sit down with John Donahue, the incoming president of AWWA.

Mr. Donahue hails from AWWA's Illinois Section. His career in the water industry spans more than 30 years and he's currently the general manager of the North Park Public Water District in Machesney Park, Illinois.

I asked him about some of the challenges and initiatives topping his priority list while at the helm of AWWA this year. "Wow, where do we start?" he joked.

"We are entering some of the most exciting times for AWWA," he said. One of the top priorities, he explained, is strengthening the relationship between the national organization and the state sections. He talked about a new program recently approved by the AWWA Board of Directors that has been two years in the making. "We had a special presidential panel convened to look at the relationships between our sections and our association, and look at our business operations for AWWA," he explained. It resulted in a report, the AWWA 20/20 report, that outlines a path to "one AWWA."

"We are looking to create business opportunities with our sections to promote education and scientific advancement throughout North America," he said. Education is a huge priority for AWWA, he said, and a recent grant funded in large part by EPA will enable the organization to develop educational programs for small and rural systems. "We are hoping to partner with our sections so that we can create the content for those educational programs, and our sections...can deliver that content," he said.

We also discussed the recent partnership between AWWA and Engineers Without Borders, which provides a unique opportunity for water professionals - students, active members and retirees - to lend their technical and operational expertise to small and rural systems across the country. "We do this throughout the world - we do it through Water For People; Engineers Without Borders provides engineering assistance throughout the world where it's needed - but, we haven't really done a lot of it in North America," he said.

On the topic of education, Donahue also talked about a new scholarship program - set to be the water industry's largest - that's currently in development. "We've been working with our sections and with some other service provider partners," he said, " to be a little bit more entrepreneurial and philanthropic and create scholarships for students...The 'brain drain' is coming. We have to engage these young students early on so that they know that careers in water are worth having."

If you'd like to watch the full interview - or any of our other coverage from ACE14 - please visit www.waterworld.com/video/video-interviews and click on the "AWWA" thumbnail.

Angela Godwin   Angela Godwin
Chief Editor, WaterWorld

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