Water Online Radio: WEF's Advice For Operators ‘In The Trenches'
Jeff Eger, executive director of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), talks to Water Online Radio about the state of the industry, the problems water and wastewater utilities currently face, and how to get back on track. He also reviews the most recent Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC 2012).
The following is an excerpt from the Q&A. Click on the Radio Player above to hear the full interview.
Water Online Radio: Jeff, you’re really in a unique position, running WEF now, on top of your background as a supervisor of a major utility. As you look across the industry, what kind of advice would you give to those folks back in the trenches, back doing the job that you did for so much of your career?
Jeff: I think for too long we didn’t want to talk about our problems. I don’t know whether we thought it was failure – the engineers, by nature, are so risk averse and conservative, but we didn’t want to talk about our failing infrastructure, the problems what we had and the need for investment. So there was just a lack of awareness.
I think the greatest advice I can give to fellow utility directors is to be transparent. I had a tremendous relationship, for instance, with my local chamber of commerce. They were supportive of every rate increase because I went and I spent time with them on why we needed it and what it was going to do for our community and why it was needed.
The media, we sit there I think sometimes as utility directors and sometimes see them as our enemy because they’re typically going to write the story or cover the story when there is a water main break or a collapse of a sewer line or thing like that. We have to spend time with the media and with our public and with our business community to get them to understand how important the investment and water is to these local communities.
I think that’s the greatest advice: get out there and tell your story. It’s a great story we’ve got to tell.