Article | November 30, 2020

Giving Thanks For Water Advocates' Big-Picture Thinking

Pete Antoniewicz

By Pete Antoniewicz


Confronted by everyday operating challenges, many decision-makers at drinking water and wastewater organizations do not always have all the time they would like to develop big-picture strategies and tactics for current and long-term concerns. Fortunately, multiple dedicated water-advocacy organizations do. Here are seven major areas of water concerns with support-organization links for ways water strategists, decision-makers, and other leaders can benefit from new perspectives for planning and implementation purposes.

Water Operations: Beyond Pumps And Pipes

Mainstream organizations that water and wastewater superintendents and operators rely upon for guidance on everyday treatment tasks also offer insights for dealing with broader or more conceptual issues.

  • The Water Action Hub is a global clearinghouse for information about collaborative water stewardship efforts. Its introductory video and searchable database can provide insight and collaborative opportunities for new projects as well as contacts for sharing information about the success of others on past projects.

Water Research: Gaining Insight Into Leading-Edge Concerns

There are many sources for research applicable to local water or wastewater utilities and regional or watershed-specific organizations. Here are several high-level clearinghouses for broad-based research information:

  • In addition to addressing multiple research topics, the U.S. EPA offers research-funding support, plus research-methodology and training resources.

Wastewater Treatment: Protecting The Environment From Downstream Impacts

Even well-managed wastewater treatment operations can experience occasional challenges in meeting Clean Water Act regulatory requirements due to aging infrastructure, added pressures from regional growth, and climate-related changes in stormwater demands. Beyond that, there are also new opportunities to capitalize on byproduct resources that were formerly wasted.

  • The National Association Of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) is a leading voice for legislative, regulatory, and legal advocacy on all aspects of clean water concerns. Its current-issues focus includes perspectives on both current funding for clean water efforts and promoting innovation for future challenges. And its advocacy priorities provide insight and information links on topics from water quality and PFAS to stormwater, infrastructure funding, and more.
  • offers perspectives and case study examples of turning waste into resources around the world.
  • This Water Research Foundation report takes resource recovery one step further to generate a broader scope of financial and environmental benefits for water resource recovery facilities interested in exploring food waste co-digestion.

Water Scarcity, Sustainability, Efficiency, And Reuse: Preserving The Future Of Water

Whatever the role of a water professional in today’s environment — sourcing water, treating potable water, distributing it, or managing its safe return to the environment — there are many layers of concern. The following resources provide a wealth of perspective for those focal points:

  • The Water Education Foundation’s Water Academy offers links to a wide variety of topics regarding sustainability across a broad scope of challenges from climate change and coronavirus to water conservation and water equity.
  • The WateReuse Association provides access to a variety of resources for education, advocacy, and engagement exclusively around the acceptance and practice of water reuse. While the EPA National Water Reuse Action Plan provides more of an overview of the federal government’s approach to water reuse, it does include references to people, programs, and projects instrumental to advancing water reuse. It also includes links to specific resources to benefit decisions-makers who are exploring their own water-reuse potential.

Water Leadership: Training The Trainers

Beyond help specifically for water and wastewater treatment operators, there are also groups that support higher-level administrators and influencers who lead the way in effecting positive changes throughout the water sector.

  • The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) offers data, analysis, policy recommendation, and multiple resources to help primacy agencies for 50 states and 7 U.S. territories/districts be more effective in helping local water utilities provide access to safe drinking water.
  • This guidebook from the River Network provides good insights to help drinking-water-quality influencers at utilities and other organizations do a better job of engaging in education and advocacy for improved drinking water access, sustainability, and safety.

Water Workforce: Links To A Reliable Future

Anxiety about a wave of retirements is an ongoing concern for many water and wastewater treatment operations. One way to prevent getting caught shorthanded is to understand the local job market and to start laying the groundwork for identifying and training replacements.

  • Utilities can take advantage of industry-specific websites like this one to recruit employees ranging from recent high-school graduates to experienced veterans. WEF even offers an industry-specific program to enhance diversity and inclusion while protecting future water-industry workforce needs.
  • And while this document was generated by a regional workforce collaborative, its ‘Conclusions’ and ‘Recommendations’ links provide practical insights for any utilities facing issues of workforce continuity and attracting qualified workers.

Water Equity: Advocating For Safe Drinking Water For All

Not all of the important issues facing water providers revolve around the chemistry, biology, or physics of source water, treatment, infrastructure, and regulatory compliance. Some involve fundamental fairness in terms of equitable access to quality water at affordable costs, because we are still a long way from having a reliable supply of quality water for every citizen at home and abroad. Here are several organizations that address inequalities in developed economies as well as in developing countries and economies.

That same group’s One-Water movement is dedicated to promoting the adoption of innovative and inclusive approaches. It offers webinar learning, mentoring opportunities, and perspective on essential leadership capacities — including setting a vision, shaping the culture, fostering possibility thinking, enabling innovation, building trust and collaboration, and adapting and learning.

  • For financially challenged small communities and rural areas, the National Environmental Services Center offers multiple resources for both big-picture and hands-on approaches to their water and wastewater needs. The National Rural Water Association and its state associations also represent another valuable resource for hands-on assistance in small, rural communities.