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President's Message May 2022

Rob LeeI’m writing this as I look out of my office window at the relentless rain we’re experiencing this spring (at least west of the Cascades). Yet I cannot help but marvel at what spring brings us: a reminder of new life. Flowers start to bud, trees bloom, birds return and sing to us in the mornings. And those relentless rains? They’re a reminder of the essential industry that we’re all in — protecting the critical waterways that are the backbone of our lives here in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m giddy with excitement for this new season. Our board met in person this past month as a mid-year check-in about the health and direction of PNCWA, and I’d love to share a few things with you all:

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President's Message April 2022

Rob LeeOne of the greatest measures of an organization’s relevance is the answer to the question, “What would happen if we didn’t exist?” I’ve asked this of myself and of our board several times this past year — yet we keep coming back to the same answer. With the changes of the past couple of years, our industry here in the Pacific Northwest still has a critical need for collaboration, information sharing, networking, and continuing growth and education. And the inspiration and community that develops from such endeavors are always so important.

To that end, we’re excited about the progress we’re making in implementing the strategic initiatives we identified last year. I’m pleased to report these:

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President’s Message March 2022

rob lee

I recently came across a quote “Everyone has the gift of time, but few utilize.” Incredibly, we’re already a quarter of the way through 2022. Time truly flies by! Yet when I pause and look around the Association, I am amazed by the countless people giving the gift of their time to help our industry grow and our communities overcome their water challenges.

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PNCWA Seeks Leadership Nominations

board

The Board of Directors includes the following positions: President, President-Elect, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Past President, Association Young Professional Representative, two WEF Directors, and four Regional Directors. The PNCWA Nominating Committee is accepting nominations for the positions of Vice President, PNCWA WEF Director, Secretary, and YP Representative.

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President’s Message February 2022

Rob Lee새해 복 많이 받으세요! In Korean, this phrase means, “Please receive many new year’s blessings.”

Whether you celebrate the start of the new year (per the lunar calendar) or cannot believe we’re already in the second month of the solar calendar, my hope is that each and every person reading this heads into 2022 with many blessings to come.

PNCWA exists to share blessings with our industry and the communities we serve. I’m so excited to gather together for our annual conference, which will be held in person in Spokane, WA, and bless each other by sharing our experiences and lessons learned from all the good work being conducted out there. Don’t forget to submit an abstract, due February 25!

I’m absolutely amazed by the ways I’ve seen individuals give, and the blessing that it bestows on our entire region — folks like Brittany Downing (InFLOW Committee Chair), who is leading the efforts to bring in the next InFLOW class and spur on our next generation of diverse leaders, or Caitlyn Dwyer (Government Affairs Committee Chair), who facilitated the recent Watershed Based Water Quality workshop. And I’m blown away by the work being done by Vicky Hollingsworth and Jeff Schmidt and the entire Conference Committee, who are planning our next conference. There’s so much going on, and there are so many ways to get plugged in! All it takes is an ask!

There’s a spiritual saying that goes, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” In my personal experience, that’s absolutely true. And I would love each and every one of you to receive that same blessing. So reach out to PNCWA ([email protected]), send me a note, or ping a board member or committee chair, and we’ll get you connected and provide clear, discrete ways you can give… and be blessed.

we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give

President's Message January 2022

Rob LeeHappy New Year! When the calendar changes from December 31 to January 1, the earth rotates 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds, just like every other day. But, for many of us, the new year is a sign of new beginnings.

The water industry is facing such tremendous challenges. COVID variants, climate change, worker shortages, supply chain issues, silver tsunami of retirees, increasing rural-urban divides, racial injustice, lack of equal access to sanitation and clean water, and the list goes on. Yet, in the midst of these challenges, there is a spark of hope. This spark is each and every one of you who raise your hand, refusing to be simply carried along by the challenges, but who instead plant your feet and take those challenges head on. You all are the spark that spurs on others, creating a chance for change.

As we head into 2022, PNCWA is embracing that chance and pushing for change in the midst of uncertainty. We are aiming to provide top-notch education through webinars, like the Watershed-Based Water Quality workshop on January 25 and 26 held by the Government Affairs Committee and January’s Stormwater Learning Hour. We have already begun planning for our annual conference that speaks directly to the issues our members are facing here in the Pacific Northwest. And through it all, we are embracing the chance to bring about the change we want to see.

If you, too, are interested in embracing this chance and spurring on change, please join us. While there are numerous opportunities to get involved, I would suggest three specific ways as we start off the new year:



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President's Message December 2021

Rob LeeChristmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Rohatsu. All of these holidays celebrate the strength of the human spirit in the midst of trials and tribulations. They remind us of the hope that is possible for the future and that, by joining with others, there can be something greater than our own individual lives. This is the time of year to pause, reflect, and celebrate.

For those of us in the water industry here in the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. We have made tremendous progress in creating awareness of the importance and interconnectivity of our water resources, more funding is headed our way to inject much-needed investment into our aging infrastructure, and the past year has brought a greater understanding of the impact that infrastructure has on social justice and equity.

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President's Message November 2021

Rob Lee

During this time of year, I’m reminded of the importance of being thankful — or “aware and appreciative of a benefit,” as it’s defined.

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President's Message October 2021

Rob LeeAutumn is such a vibrant, visual reminder of the changes that inevitably occur in our lives. A great many things have changed over the last couple of years, and our industry is now facing the challenges that have resulted — including how to accomplish the vast amount of work that needs to get done while dealing with worker shortages, supply chain issues, escalating construction costs, and navigating the virtual work environment. We know that some of the most passionate volunteers and members of PNCWA are feeling the strain of these challenges, so I wanted to pause and tell you that we understand, we feel similarly, and we are immensely grateful for those of you who continue to advance the mission of PNCWA.

PNCWA is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide people with top-notch education, opportunities to learn about the ever-changing tools and technology in our industry, and the chance to network and connect with others. Our work is critical, and it cannot be done without the tireless efforts of so many of you.

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President's Message September 2021

As we enter into this new year for PNCWA, I’m incredibly humbled and honored to step into the role of President of the Board of Directors. PNCWA is such a critical nonprofit organization essential to the future of our region and the water industry. The 2021 Conference was an amazing reminder of that, and I personally am feeling reenergized and reminded of the importance of community, geography, and, of course, water.

Thank you to Haley Falconer, Immediate Past President, for her amazing leadership and sacrifice over the past year. Thank you to our conference committee, sponsors, manufacturers and exhibitors, the board, our dedicated committee chairs, section leads, and to the countless dedicated and talented people in the Pacific Northwest that have given so much to PNCWA.

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President's Message August 2021

haley falconer and familyPNCWA Members –

As I write this, I am less than a month away from the end of my role as PNCWA President. It has been a tumultuous year but one that I will look back on with pride. We are an organization made up of passionate, creative people, including our Board who provides strategic direction and financial oversight; the committees where members share experience and interest to advance the goals of the organization, and individual members who are vital to the success of all our activities. In spite of the tumult, we have accomplished much and moved our organization forward. Here are a few highlights from this year:

  • Summit Series – a great way to connect and learn as an organization. The lessons learned from these events will be carried forward into future virtual programming.
  • Mission Statement and Critical Objectives – the Board refined the Mission Statement to better reflect the current and future work of our organization. We also crafted several critical objectives that will serve as the basis of future strategic planning efforts.
  • Partnership with Water Reuse Association – we are thrilled to be partnered with WRA-PNW for PNCWA2021 where they will be providing a technical track for two days focused on water reuse and their members will be invited to participate in our conference. This partnership is hopefully the beginning of other activities and efforts to advance recycled water in the northwest.
  • Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee – PNCWA created a new subcommittee which, “strives to empower PNCWA membership by providing education and resources, collaborating with impacted communities, and advocating for enduring racial and social justice in water resource organizations, programs, and projects that bring about lasting change.”
  • CONFERENCE! – For many, myself included, the annual conference is a highlight. Planning in the unknown has been an overwhelming challenge at times, but we are so excited with where we’ve landed. We hope to see many of you in person for this year’s conference in Boise. For those who cannot make it in person, we invite you to join us virtually and view the live streamed sessions.

To the volunteers who have led, participated in, and provided feedback for these activities and many others that we’ve accomplished this year, THANK YOU! We succeed as an organization because of you. To the Board, newly created Conference Committee, and other committee leaders who exhibited grace, trust, and leadership, you truly captured lightning in a bottle this year.

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President's Message July 2021

haley falconer

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that creating Ripples of Change requires introspection and action. As a conference committee planning PNCWA 2021, we want to embody inclusion, celebration, and the action required to create change. We are thrilled to announce that registration is now open for PNCWA 2021, where we will host several powerful speakers for our General Opening Session on Monday morning, including Dan Prinzing and Tai Simpson, who will be delivering our keynote (link names to bios). Dr. Prinzing is the executive director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, whose mission is “to promote respect for human dignity and diversity through education and to foster individual responsibility to work for peace and justice.” As an antiracism activist and community leader, Tai serves as an organizer for the Indigenous Idaho Alliance and uses contemporary and traditional Indigenous storytelling to champion radical inclusion, equity, and liberation.

We hope that the introspection our speakers’ messages inspire will carry you to action Tuesday morning as we gather for coffee at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial just four blocks from the conference center. Emily, Allison, and I have wandered this site several times over the last year and continue to find inspiration in the space. We cannot wait to see you at PNCWA 2021.

Women of Water/Energy Recognition

Women Group

The Women of Water Summit is coming up next month, and the aquafficiency team is excited to hear from so many of our industry leaders! Of course, because we’re all about energy efficiency, we wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge and highlight some of the women who have done so much to help move the needle in wastewater facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Our sponsorship is in honor of the women listed below, whose knowledge, hard work, and support of making wastewater treatment more energy efficient have saved millions of kilowatt-hours (not to mention dollars!) over the years. In alphabetical order (because you can’t rank superstars), they are:

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President's Message Oct 2020

Flashback to PNCWA 2009: I was a grad student at Washington State (Go Cougs!) and attended my first PNCWA Conference in Boise. I was there to present my graduate research on phosphorus removal using biogenic iron oxides (a terrifying endeavor, but that’s a different story). Nutrient removal and management is as important as ever and continues to drive utility upgrades and operational challenges that many Pacific Northwest cities are facing. Because nutrients is such an important topic, PNCWA is hosting the Nutrients Summit on October 28 to provide members with high quality continuing education. I recommend you join us to connect with members and learn from leading experts.

While I am optimistic that we are going to have an outstanding year, I also want to share with you that it will not be easy. As a non-profit, volunteer board, we are working to provide education, stay connected to you, and build a resilient organization. Our members, supporting organizations, and commitment and enthusiasm to improve the world around us is what will make us successful this year and beyond. A huge thank you to our Summit Series sponsors who are supporting a new endeavor and incredible way for us to learn and connect. Because sponsors are as important now as pre-COVID, we are creating as much value as possible. If you have any input on how we can better serve you, please let me know.

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President's Message Sept 2020

Before I introduce myself, I want to thank Adam for leading us through this tumultuous year. We had no idea what this year would bring, but Adam was the leader PNCWA needed. He is thoughtful, strong, and, most of all, kind. He carried us through with his stability, diligence, and grace. I am proud to follow in Adam’s footsteps and lead PNCWA forward.

My name is Haley Falconer and I am the Environmental Division Manager at the City of Boise, ID. I grew up in Montana, where I learned to value and protect the environment. When I studied environmental engineering in college, I knew that I could find meaningful work in something that I was good at and where I could make a difference in the world. I started volunteering for WEF in college and ultimately found PNCWA when I moved to Washington for grad school. Now, I live and work in Boise with my husband, two little boys, and rescue pup, Harriet.

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The PNCWA Board Reflects on a Year of Firsts and What Lies Ahead


The Annual Business Meeting held via Zoom on September 15 was well-attended and packed with information. Outgoing president, Adam McClymont, kicked off the meeting with a list of the past year’s accomplishments. Prior to the pandemic, PNCWA was already in the process of overhauling its budgeting and accounting processes. When COVID escalated, we drastically cut our program budgets and greatly reduced travel. Our committees developed and produced informative webinars. Those virtual opportunities will continue to grow and will be featured in the upcoming Summit Series.

PNCWA hit many firsts this year. We distributed WEF Wastewater Treatment Fundamental books to our sections. We formally made the Young Professional Representative Position a voting position. The Idaho Section created the new Pat Brown Memorial Scholarship. We planned a WEFMAX in Boise in 2021. The Construction Committee was made official with a Charter. And we will continue to experience more firsts as we navigate this new normal. The business meeting was followed by a fast-paced awards ceremony, complete with virtual applause, that recognized some of our incredible members for their hard work, dedication, and innovation in the face of adversity this past year. Check out the awards ceremony on the PNCWA YouTube channel. 

Climate Impact Survey

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group is engaging staff and operators in the water sector in the broader Northwest region (WA, OR, ID, AK) in a series of conversations about how to plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. With support from the Water Research Foundation, they will be organizing several focus group calls, followed by a series of webinars, which will include training on how to access and use regionally relevant climate data and tools. To support peer-to-peer learning, UW Climate Impacts Group also plans to include case studies from regional operators that showcase how climate science is being used in support of building climate resilient water systems across the Northwest.  

Please help UW Climate Impacts Group tailor these sessions to fit your needs and interests by completing this brief survey. They are interested in hearing from water utilities and operators of all stripes—including drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and combined utilities—and are hoping to focus on small- to medium-sized utilities (serving populations <200,000).

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PNCWA Statement Against Racism

PNCWA exists for the, “education… increased public understanding, and promotion of sound public laws and programs in the water resources and related environmental fields.” Like all of our members, PNCWA believes that the right to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right, just like the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And yet the recent senseless murders of Black Americans such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have shown us that we cannot talk about protecting human health and the environment without talking about the systemic racism and injustice that has existed from our nation’s beginning and still exists today. We realize our silence and inaction makes us complicit in denying certain segments of our population, like the Black Community, of their basic rights, not just to clean water but to life itself. We have much to learn.

Our membership is comprised of people who joined this industry to be a part of something greater than themselves – wanting and willing to make the world a better place. As PNCWA leaders, we promise that the Black Community does not simply have our solidarity but our enduring voices, resolved to help carry the burden of fighting institutional racism, discrimination, and bias. This is not a Black problem, but a human problem. And we call on all of our members to use their privilege and platforms to lessen the burden off of the shoulders of those who are the subject of these injustices.  This will take each and every one of us, committed to this hard work that must endure even after the protests have quieted and the headlines have faded.

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Meet Mark Walter, PNCWA Contract Manager

When the Covid-19 crisis broke it impacted us all a little differently, but it was a reminder to all of us about the power of human connection. Mark Walter is the new PNCWA Contract Manager. His role is to facilitate connection between contracted vendors as well as to connect PNCWA members to the resources and support they need. While not a stranger to PNCWA involvement, we asked Mark to tell us a little more about himself, in his own words.

It has been exciting to serve as Contract Manager for the PNCWA as the association transitions to new business management practices. My experience with the PNCWA has been a wonderful part of my career in water quality. I cannot imagine a better group of people to be around. No matter what the challenge, PNCWA members rally together to solve some of the most complex water quality challenges.

I became a WEF member in 1988 as an Operator at Irvine Ranch Water District in California. My local Section was the Santa Ana River Basin Section, where I competed in the Scott Air Pack Challenge. This was a timed response to a simulated gas leak, back when gaseous chlorine was used for disinfection. I moved back to Oregon in the early ’90s and became a member of the NW Oregon Operators Section (now Lower Columbia Section), where I became an active Operations Challenge competitor. After several years competing, I served as the PNCWA Ops Challenge Chair, Oregon Region Director, and went on to serve on the PNCWA Board. I was elected as the PNCWA President in 2000. Throughout the 2000s, I dedicated my volunteer time to the Oregon Water Environment Foundation’s Water Environment School. In 2015, I was asked to establish the PNCWA Awards Committee. The Awards program exposed me again to the great contributions of the members of the PNW. The PNCWA Awards program continues to evolve as new members bring their “style” into the committee. We sure know how to have fun!

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Bridging Connections: What's Your PNCWA Story?

With the PNCWA annual conference just around the corner, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on the myriad of reasons why membership and involvement are so important. Membership not only impacts our own professional development, but the connections we make have the potential to create ripples across the region. We asked a few PNCWA members to tell us their story and why PNCWA matters so much to them in their own words. We also hear from the Membership Committee Chair, Brittany Burch, about an exciting initiative PNCWA is taking on to build diversity in our member association. Read their story here.