Guest Column | September 3, 2014

WWEMA Window: The Need For Change


By Vanessa M. Leiby, WWEMA Executive Director

In the last week, I sent my youngest daughter off to her freshman year at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and my oldest daughter, a junior at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, off to Salamanca, Spain, to study abroad for three months. While these were much anticipated opportunities, they also came with a lot of questions, worries, and angst.  Change is never easy!

Based on my experience, there are three types of people in the world: 1) the entrepreneurs and visionaries who thrive on creating change; 2) those individuals who are afraid of change and become paralyzed in the face of even minor “adjustments” to their normal lives; and 3) the vast majority of us who understand that change is inevitable but seek to minimize its impacts. 

The reality is that without change, nothing can grow and evolve.  In my role as the new executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), I have been totally immersed in change for the past nine months — a new job, a new strategic plan, a new investment policy, and a soon to be new office location. While the road has not always been easy or straight, we are on a journey that short- and long-term will significantly improve the work we do for our members, the services we can provide, and the value we can bring to the water and wastewater industry. These are exciting times!

The water and wastewater industry is also changing. We are moving from “wastewater treatment plants” to “resource recovery facilities”; from energy users to energy producers; from stove pipe treatment of water to embracing a “One Water” concept. Utilities are reaching out to their customers and better educating them about where their water comes from and asking them to weigh in on new kinds of green infrastructure to deal with stormwater and other types of runoff. A number of cities are creating opportunities to reuse and recycle water, and a few are even on the verge of direct potable reuse. The water industry also is getting more creative about financing infrastructure improvements — from using public-private-partnerships to DC Water’s recent release of $350 million in Green Century Bonds. WWEMA, as well as the American Water Works Association (AWWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), U.S. EPA, and others, are trying to push the envelope on innovation in the water industry.

Not all of these changes are easy, but we need change in order to solve the decades-old problems that face our industry. We need new ways of thinking. We need to step out of our comfort zones and imagine a world and an industry that looks far different tomorrow than it did yesterday.  We need the visionaries. So I challenge each of us, as we go about our daily business, to think about where we are today and what we can do to create a new and better future for water.

Vanessa Leiby is the executive director of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA). Effective September 15, 2014 WWEMA’s new address is 540 Fort Evans Road, #304, Leesburg, VA 20176-3379. The phone number and staff emails will remain the same.