The American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition (AWWA ACE) 2015 got off to a great and thought-provoking start yesterday morning during the Opening Session (June 8 at 8:30 a.m.). The party atmosphere with music and attendees sitting in the audience helped set the tone for what AWWA President John Donohue said is a time of transition for AWWA members and the water industry. Moving toward the concept of total water solutions, Donohue stated that water professionals have to continue to dream and transition to grow. AWWA’s chief focus has primarily been drinking water but in the new world of water, the organization plans to refocus and look at the entire water cycle.

AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance echoed these sentiments and expounded on the definition of total water solutions. Clean water professionals are not alone in the water industry. They can and should reach out to the wastewater group and other sectors to help improve how they provide the most valuable resource in the world: clean water.

Along the transition and transformation theme, LaFrance discussed how “through bold moves and innovation, we find new ways to do what we need to do.” The “yuck” factor of direct potable reuse suddenly becomes less of a deterrent in drought-stricken California, and a large investment in a desalination plant becomes more acceptable when freshwater resources are limited. The water community must turn its attention to becoming prepared for these types of transitions, to do the difficult work of finding solutions to problems in the community. During extreme times, like the current California drought, water professionals need to come together and share knowledge, as they do at ACE, which provides an environment in which knowledge is shared and transformation can occur.

Keynote speaker Wallace J. Nichols, marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, began his presentation by thanking water professionals for taking care of the Earth’s oceans. He discussed how the water community never hears about all its hard work until a problem occurs. No one ever says, “Thank you for that nice bath,” but a person will complain when the water is not available for a bath. He encouraged water professionals to continue fighting their fights because “every decision we make affects water.”

Beyond the immediate biological requirement for hydration that water provides, Nichols has conducted research alongside numerous neuroscientists, and his book Blue Mind details how water affects the human brain. Being around and in water helps lessen stress and makes people happy. He stated that we are directly connected to water, and the water community helps protect the clean rivers, lakes and oceans we enjoy every day.

Thank you water professionals for doing the hard work of protecting our water resources. AWWA ACE will continue to be a venue for the water community to bring knowledge together, share it and transform the industry.