Tom Kunetz, WEF 2018-19 President, blogs about the People-Water Nexus

A few weeks ago, at WEFTEC® 2018 in New Orleans, I had the privilege to become the 2018–2019 president of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.). I am deeply honored to be given the opportunity to continue in the long tradition of my predecessors to serve the members of WEF by providing you with the knowledge, connections, and advocacy you need to do your job of protecting the water environment.

During my term, I would like to focus on the People–Water Nexus. This concept is much like the Energy–Water Nexus that describes how it takes water to make energy and energy to collect, move, store, and treat water. The People–Water Nexus starts with an understanding of how everyone – not just water sector professionals – is connected to water.

People affect water. We degrade water quality, move water from place to place, drain aquifers, and disrupt the water cycle and the climate. Conversely, water affects people. We need it to drink, for sanitation, to grow food, and for transportation. We all are physically connected to water.

We also are connected to water emotionally. If you have gone to the beach, kayaked down a river, sailed on a lake, or sat by a fountain, then you have experienced the draw of water.

The People–Water Nexus also connects us to each other through water. Water brings us together at WEFTEC and through our Member Associations. This nexus brings us together in our communities and homes. Coach a soccer team? Sing in the choir? Care for a family member? Teach night school? Many WEF members also volunteer in the community and are first to lend a helping hand. That is the heart of the People–Water Nexus.

The emotions and feeling of wonder that we get from water reaches into other parts of our lives and connects us to each other. This sense of caring and duty is embodied in the People–Water Nexus. These attitudes and values shape the organizational culture of WEF and drives us to achieve our vision:

“A community of empowered professionals creating a healthy global water environment.”

Read the entire column in the October 2018 issue of WEF Highlights

Thomas E. Kunetz, P.E.

WEF 2018-19 President Thomas E. Kunetz

Thomas E. Kunetz is the 2018-2019 President of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), an international organization of water quality professionals headquartered in Alexandria, Va.

Tom is the assistant director of monitoring and research for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, leading the district's efforts on key strategic engineering initiatives. He has over 30 years of experience in the field of environmental engineering in both the public and private sectors, focusing on design of wastewater treatment facilities, improving the water environment, and protection of public health.

A WEF member since 1992, Tom is the past chair of the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Symposium, and served on the Program Committee, and the Municipal Water Resource Recovery Design Committee. He was a member of the Chicago WEFMAX organizing committee, and served on the Stockholm Junior Water Prize organizing committee with the Illinois Water Environment Association.

Tom is a registered professional engineer in the state of Illinois. He is a graduate of the WEF-sponsored Water and Wastewater Leadership Center at the University of North Carolina, the 2012 recipient of the Charles Walter Nichols Award for Environmental Excellence from the American Public Works Association, and a WEF Fellow. He has served as technical advisor to the student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World at Northwestern University, traveling to Panama with the students.

Tom earned his B.S. in environmental engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and an M.S. in water resources engineering from Villanova University.

Updated Jan. 15, 2019


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