Last week I went to Boston for the American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition. It is a gathering of thousands of water industry professionals – from operators to university professors to engineers to manufacturers. It is a good group of people and most know a number of people each year. The industry is smaller than one things despite there being over 50,000 community water systems in the United States. All are there to network, which allows them to discuss their issue, learn new ways to approach things, create new contacts and see new equipment and techniques. Over 11,000 registered. Good job to AWWA staff and the folks in New England that local hosts.
At the conference, one of many tasks, beyond meetings and education, was to do a class for public officials on what water and sewer utilities are, how they operate, how to deal with revenues and expenses and regulations. The idea is to help local officials understand the complex utility issues which are often second fiddle to more “surficial” activities like parks, and economic development. The officials get a certificate from AWWA for 12 hours of class time, but the fact that these folks come, spend the time, get involved and can then experience the rest of the program is to be commended. I have been doing these public officials classes since my book came out in 2009. The first two days are always based on the book, but the third day can vary depending on issues in the news and preferences form the public officials group within AWWA. This year the focus was operations and revenues. The responses were positive, and the interaction was very good. And I had a blast as well.
It had been 40 years since AWWA was in Boston for ACE. I have been twice previously – once when I was 7 and we went to the aquarium and once to catch a baseball game at Fenway, while on a 5 game, 4 city, 3 day baseball trip. Boston led off. This time, I was able to spend a day looking at the City. Thanks to my friend Chi Ho Sham who acted as chauffer and tour guide – I expect to repay the gesture whenever he can spend a couple days in S. Florida. Boston as many of you know is the cradle of the American revolution, and visits to the old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, the USS Constitution, several cemeteries and Faneuil Hall. Fascinating. Another trip to come as there is much more to experience than a day.
The moral to the story is that conferences allow us to accomplish many things. We meet new people, hear new things, and if we spend a little time, we can experience how others live or have lived. The history is valuable to us personally.