Giving Water Professionals the Recognition They Deserve

Virginia celebrates June 30 as Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day as declared by the state General Assembly.
Giving Water Professionals the Recognition They Deserve
Prince William County Service Authority employees perform valve exercising. June 30 is Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day in Virginia.

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When you work in water and wastewater, no news is typically good news. If the people you serve aren’t thinking about what you’re doing, it means you’re running a tight ship.

However, everyone appreciates a pat on the back once in a while. That’s why June 30 is known as Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day in Virginia. The day celebrates the efforts of water sector professionals to protect public health and the environment.

In early 2016, the state General Assembly passed Joint House-Senate Commending Resolution HJ 88 marking the special day. State Rep. Richard Anderson sponsored the resolution. Before holding elected office, Anderson served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and saw firsthand the effects of inaccessible drinking water and inadequate wastewater treatment.

“Day in and day out, these pros safeguard the health of our citizens and make invaluable and lasting contributions to the Prince William community, and they care for our environment in the process,” Anderson says. “The General Assembly salutes the professionals who provide these invaluable services across the Commonwealth.”

Saluting water heroes

The Prince William County Service Authority came up with the idea for the resolution. The authority’s communications division contacted regional and state water sector organizations to gather support and worked with Anderson to compose the resolution.

“People take the water that comes from their tap for granted,” says Kipp Hanley of the communications division. “Because these professionals often go unnoticed day in and day out, our organization wanted them to be recognized for the essential work they perform. We felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Planning began in spring 2015. As word of the idea came out, it didn’t take long for partners to join in. “We found it to be a fairly straightforward process,” Hanley says. “It wasn’t difficult finding partners. Once we explained what we were trying to do, groups were more than happy to contribute.”

Many players

In the end, the Service Authority was joined by several other organizations, including the Virginia Water Environment Association, the Virginia chapter of the American Water Works Association, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the Virginia Rural Water Association.

“It’s an honor for our staff to work with the many talented and dedicated water professionals in Virginia and across metropolitan Washington, and we are thrilled that they’re being recognized,” says Chuck Bean, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “Our area utilities work around the clock to deliver clean drinking water and treat our wastewater. Their work is vital.”

Once the resolution was drafted, Anderson was happy to bring it to the House floor. “We have a week dedicated to safe drinking water every May, so it’s only right to show recognition for those that make it possible,” Hanley says. “State Rep. Anderson recognized that, too, and graciously agreed to be the sponsor.”

Vital duties

For background on the resolution, the partners provided their own takes on why treating water and wastewater is integral to public and environmental health and welfare. The state’s water professionals provide drinking water and wastewater services for 8.3 million residents. They clean more than 620 mgd of wastewater.

“When you look at the various water crises around the country, you realize how important it is to dedicate resources to improving infrastructure,” Hanley says. “While they are overlooked, the people behind that clean water are a major part of that infrastructure.”

Virginia celebrated its second Appreciation Day last June. The Service Authority celebrated with an ice cream social for employees and a presentation from Dean Dickey, general manager. Besides encouraging professionals and organizations to use the day as a platform to educate about water sector services, the Service Authority encourages utilities to lobby for their own state recognition.

“When we introduced this idea, partners were more than happy to jump on board,” Hanley says. “This resolution is another great way to keep the conversation going on the importance of clean water and about those who help deliver it to the public.”


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