WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 

March 2012, Vol. 49, No. 2

Top Story

WEF Hosts Meeting To Discuss Workforce Issues

Industry leaders share information on programs to draw new talent to wastewater treatment
EPA Meeting-Group Small   On Feb. 16, approximately 30 leaders in the wastewater and water treatment industries gathered to discuss workforce issues at Water Environment Federation (WEF) headquarters in Alexandria, Va.
Leaders in the wastewater and water treatment industries gathered to discuss workforce issues and programs. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger image.
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WEF Urges Passage of New Water Infrastructure Financing Legislation

Executive Director Eger calls for innovative technologies, management

On Feb. 28 Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Executive Director Jeff Eger joined with other industry leaders on Capitol Hill to urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass new legislation that would fund water infrastructure needs. Eger’s testimony, presented to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, highlighted the financial challenges facing water facilities around the country and the importance of providing support for these essential services. 
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Photo courtesy of Wendy Wilkerson, U.S. Conference of Mayors. Click for larger image.
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WEF Introduces New Strategic Direction

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has announced a new strategic direction that emphasizes innovation, increasing awareness of the value of water, and a continued commitment to supporting the expertise of the water profession.

After a comprehensive planning effort, WEF created this strategic direction with a new vision, mission, and critical objectives to lead WEF into the future and guide efforts to meet the needs of members and the entire water profession.
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And the Burke Award Goes to …

Utilities around the country receive safety award from WEF Member Associations

Each year, select utilities nationwide receive recognition for their safety programs from Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Member Associations (MAs) through the Burke Award. In 2011, 16 of WEF’s 46 MAs presented the Burke Award to a utility.

MAs look closely at nearby utilities to find those that portray exemplary safety practices. If an MA identifies a municipal or industrial wastewater facility with an active and effective safety program, it nominates the utility and presents the award to utility representatives at the MA’s annual meeting. 

Established in 1982, the award honors George W. Burke Jr. for his years of service to the water environment and WEF. Burke was instrumental in developing WEF’s annual safety survey and assisting in the production of several safety training aids and promotional packets.

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Safety training events at the Union Sanitary District (USD; Union City, Calif.) are one reason it received the 2011 Burke Award from the California Water Environment Association (Sacramento). Photo courtesy of Michelle Powell, USD communications coordinator. Click for larger image.
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WEF Member Shares Experience Volunteering for OPA in Myanmar

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Woodie Muirhead, operations specialist in the Honolulu office of Brown and Caldwell (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member, volunteers for Opening Possibilities Asia (OPA). Muirhead had visited Myanmar many times before learning about WEF creative services specialist Jessica Rozek’s volunteer work in the area from the WEF Highlights article “Making a Difference: WEF Employee Takes an Environmental Vacation.” Rozek’s work at a school in Mandalay, Myanmar (formerly Burma), prompted Muirhead to contact her about volunteering at the school as well.

Also, don’t miss the article in the March WE&T, “On the road to Mandalay: Accepting the World Water Monitoring Challenge,” which details water quality testing for children at the school using World Water Monitoring Challenge kits.


Woodie Muirhead (center) looks at the chlorine residual in the drinking water after adding household bleach to one of the drinking water tanks with U Nandaka (right), one of the administrators for the Buddhist monastic school in Mandalay. Photo courtesy of Muirhead. Click for larger image.
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Achieving That Emerald Status

NRDC provides new metrics for green infrastructure and stormwater practices

During the past decade, green infrastructure has gained more prominence in the United States. In the 2011 report Rooftops to Rivers II: Green strategies for controlling stormwater and combined sewer overflows, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC; New York) highlighted 14 cities (see sidebar) in North America with stellar green infrastructure programs. NRDC developed its list using a six-point “Emerald City scale.”

“The Emerald City metrics is new for this report,” said Jon Devine, senior attorney for the Water Program at NRDC and one of the authors of the report. “We felt that the programs in a number of communities have matured so much that we were able to identify elements that make them successful.” 

NRDC has been studying pollution from stormwater runoff and solutions via green infrastructure for more than a decade, Devine said. NRDC used that experience to help create the list. The organization also shared its metrics withvarious green infrastructure practitioners to get their feedback.


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A Kansas City, Mo., rain garden is one of the green infrastructure strategies to handle stormwater that helps cities gain rank on the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Emerald Cities scale.” Photo courtesy of Lynn Hinkle, ASTRA Enterprises (Kansas City, Mo.). Click for larger image.
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UNICEF Mobilizes Thousands of Volunteers for Tap Project

Restaurants and volunteers join to raise funds for water and sanitation projects

What better way to celebrate World Water Week, held March 19 to 25, and United Nations’ World Water Day, held March 22, than to donate money to improve children’s access to clean water and proper sanitation? This is the thought behind the annual UNICEF (New York) Tap Project campaign that began in 2007 in New York City.
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What's Stopping Direct Potable Reuse?

What is the biggest challenge to direct potable use of reclaimed or recycled water? Some of the most common reasons that technologists and politicians give are huge capital investment, public perception, lack of demand, and fear of trace organic compounds and microconstituents. These reasons may be the specific drawbacks for particular projects, but are they the overarching concerns? Could the real issues be lack of trust on one hand and far too much trust on the other?

The lack of trust stems from public sector ownership, operation, and maintenance of the utilities producing and supplying the reclaimed water. Despite the fact that drinking water never stops (with rare exception) and wastewater is gone with a flush, the belief persist that city, state, and federal employees are overpaid underperformers. In the public’s mind, the question becomes, “do these government workers know what they are doing, and can we trust them to do it well?”

Perhaps the bigger problem is too much trust in our water supply. Public water systems have made themselves into the invisible industry by continually providing unrestricted water supplies to our homes and businesses. (The irony is how concretely this proves false any doubts about utility performance, in general.) But now, since “weird weather” is the norm, natural water supply patterns aren’t the same. Having enough water from natural cycles is no longer a safe bet year after year. Water supplies can’t provide what isn’t available, but reclaimed water always is available.

Craig Riley is reuse program lead at the Washington State Department of Health and chairman of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Water Reuse Committee. 

What Do You Think?

Take the poll below to share your opinion. The results will appear in the May issue of Water Environment & Technology.



WE&T also is seeking your solutions to reuse challenges. The WE&T editors will choose several submissions for publication in the May 2012 issue.

You’ll only have 100 words to share your Perspective, so craft your thoughts carefully. (Want an example? Visit the January 2012 edition of Perspectives.)

Send your solutions to sspicer@wef.org by March 23. Also, please include your name, title, company affiliation, and a photo headshot.

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