La Jolla Hosts NAWC Water Summit

Every day, water service companies help provide essential water and wastewater services to nearly 73 million Americans. The voice of the private water service industry is amplified by the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) that successfully hosted its annual Water Summit in La Jolla, Calif., from Oct. 2–5.

NAWC’s Summit provided a forum for more than 350 water industry professionals to exchange ideas and share solutions that serve customers and make a difference for our nation as a whole. Speakers offered a variety of perspectives on the realities and challenges in the water utility industry, as they focused on the theme of “Public Service & Private Enterprise: A Powerful Combination for Moving Water Forward.”

The audience listened to featured water book authors Brian Fagan, Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind; Robert Glennon, Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to do About It; Steve Maxwell, The Future of Water – A Startling Look Ahead; and David Zetland, The End of Abundance: Economic Solutions to Water Scarcity. In their books, the authors discussed how water has shaped our lives and will continue to do so in the future.

Karen Barnes, from The Shelton Group, discussed how research and social media trends suggest a shift in water customers’ expectations and interest in receiving water info. Barnes outlined a few communications strategies utilities can use to strengthen programs, and highlighted the WaterSense supported campaign “Wasting Water is Weird.”

Public leaders from San Diego and Los Angeles described how they set objectives for water infrastructure and service in the face of supply challenges during the “Water is Your Business: Local Leaders on Building Partnerships” session. Maureen Stapleton, general manager, San Diego County Water Authority, shared her beliefs on working with the private sector to achieve goals. Other summit highlights included two panels focused on financial perspectives on regulation and its impact on access to capital, a panel dedicated to leadership in the workplace, a professor who spoke about California’s water challenges, and Ned Breslin, CEO, Water For People, who emphasized today’s urgency to solve global safe water issues.

Eric Thornburg, president and CEO, Connecticut Water, ceremoniously passed the gavel to the new NAWC president, Lisa Sparrow, president and CEO of Utilities Inc., after the presentation of NAWC’S Management Innovation Awards wherein four member companies walked away with honors for their industry-changing ideas including Missouri American Water for their Hammerbodies Wellness and Safety Program; Baton Rouge Water Company for its Efficient Use of Segways; Middlesex Water Company’s Marsh Water Main Replacement Project, and CH2M HILL’s Sustainability Pilot Program which consisted of 57 community projects.

And for the first time, members had the opportunity to earn the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Customer Service Certificate, a recognized industry-wide certification. The program, developed by AWWA with support from NAWC, offers professional training to staff of water and wastewater utilities that do not have the resources available for an in-house customer service training curriculum.

The next NAWC Water Summit will be held in Miami, Florida, at Turnberry Isle from Oct. 7-10, 2012.

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