The Times They Are A–Changin’

In a recent issue of WWEMA’s Washington Analysis newsletter, Chairman Tom Mills of Severn Trent Services cited a Bob Dylan song – The Times They Are A–Changin’ – when speaking about the need to anticipate and adopt to change, even challenge our business models in response to customers’ needs, during this period of complex and rapid change in the water and wastewater industry.

By Dawn Kristof Champney

In a recent issue of WWEMA’s Washington Analysis newsletter, Chairman Tom Mills of Severn Trent Services cited a Bob Dylan song – The Times They Are A–Changin’ – when speaking about the need to anticipate and adopt to change, even challenge our business models in response to customers’ needs, during this period of complex and rapid change in the water and wastewater industry.

Examples of change referenced in his column included selecting technology based on “carbon footprint” rather than perceived cost; using blogs and sponsored links as new marketing tools; and striking a balance between the developed and developing worlds when setting strategic market goals.

“The waters around you have grown …you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone…”

That was Dylan’s warning. Being actively engaged in the workings of your industry’s trade (or professional) organizations to effect positive change was Chairman Mills’ solution.

The members of WWEMA have been proudly doing that for 100 years, taking an active role in helping shape the future of this life–giving industry. They take part in the congressional and regulatory rulemaking process to develop effective, affordable environmental laws and regulations that embrace the best of today’s technologies. They serve on federal advisory committees to remove trade barriers, protect intellectual rights and access new markets to bring water and wastewater technologies to the global arena. They promote value–based procurement practices and sustainable funding mechanisms to maximize return on investments made by the industry and ensure the long–term viability of its infrastructure. Equally important, they share their knowledge, experience and advice with one another in councils, committee meetings, and other Association–sponsored events, knowing they have much to gain through their collective efforts.

If I sound like I am rambling on like a proud fan, it is because I am one, having been associated with WWEMA since 1976 – yes, straight out of grade school (wink!). In those 30–some years, I, too, have witnessed incredible change.

Our nation has evolved from a community–based approach toward protecting the water environment, to a national approach with enactment of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, to multi–regional pacts taking a holistic approach toward protecting our most sensitive and threatened water bodies.

Our nation, too, has evolved from a myopic view of the world, rightfully dedicating resources to the environmental threats within its borders, to a more global perspective of the environment, recognizing the fact that our national security is dependent upon the environmental stability of developing world.

Our Association, as well, has evolved with the times. Our modest beginnings in 1908 involved managing the exhibits at regional and national conferences of the American Water Works Association. We even arranged discount rail transportation for conference attendees to and from these events, a critical service during the Great Depression. In the 1940s, WWEMA expanded its scope of trade show service, managing the exhibits of the newly formed Federation of Sewerage Works Association – known today as the Water Environment Federation .

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that WWEMA members realized their destiny was going to be dictated in large part by the actions of the U.S. Congress that was in the throws of debating a federal response to the environmental threats facing the nation. WWEMA moved its headquarters from Newark, NJ, to Washington, D.C. and became directly engaged in the legislative process, offering critical knowledge of our member companies’ technological capabilities to our nation’s policy makers during the development of the Clean Water Act and, subsequently, the Safe Drinking Water Act. WWEMA continues to be fully engaged in the issues of critical importance to the water and wastewater industry and the members it serves.

This week, alone, we have dealt with such matters as ballast water discharge standards; approved methods for measuring disinfectant residuals; standardized terms and conditions in a procurement contract; the DOHA round of free trade negotiations impacting environmental goods and services; removing the cap on private activity bonds for water and wastewater projects; the President’s fiscal 2009 budget proposal as it relates to state revolving funds; revising the total coliform rule; distribution system integrity . . . and it’s only Tuesday!

These are, indeed, interesting times and ones requiring the collective efforts of all our industry’s stakeholders to find rational, effective solutions to the many challenges that lie ahead. For 100 years, WWEMA has been the catalyst for companies that manufacture and supply water and wastewater products to the municipal and industrial markets to join forces and tackle the issues confronting the water and wastewater industry. If the last 100 years are any example, I know the need for our collective efforts will only grow exponentially in the century ahead . . . for, indeed, the times they are a–changin’.

About the author:

Dawn Kristof Champney is president of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association, a national trade association founded in 1908 to represent the leading producers of technologies used for treating wastewater and producing potable water for municipal and industrial applications, worldwide.

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