Western Canadian Water/Wastewater Specialists Shining Expertise in Light of June’s Flood Event

The devastation of the spring floods that impacted several communities in Calgary and other Southern Alberta municipalities has raised the profile of Public Health, Safety and the Environment among the general population, as well as the critical role public infrastructure plays in such events.  As these communities look to rebuild and increase their resiliency for future disaster events, many professional organizations and individuals will be engaged to contribute.

It is important to point out that during the flood response, as well as the immediate recovery efforts, the emergency response crews not only comprised of fire, police, and emergency medical services – the municipalities turned to water/wastewater and infrastructure professionals to support the tough management decisions required during a large scale ‘state-of-emergency’ natural disaster. Specifically, it was water/wastewater specialists, many of them APEGA members, who provided the expertise, knowledge and skills to ensure that potable water and sanitary services continued to be safely delivered to customers in Calgary and its serviced communities. The water industry includes project managers, utility managers, engineers, geophysicists, system operators, equipment suppliers, regulators, contractors, and other numerous volunteers, all dedicated to the water industry for the benefit, health and safety of their local and global communities.

When another significant natural disaster event like this occurs in our Province, water/wastewater specialists will be again called upon to protect public health and the environment. So, this is a good time to increase awareness of the water industry and our public infrastructure that is buried and therefore out-of-sight, out-of-mind. The specialized expertise of those that work to protect one of society’s fundamental needs (i.e. safe water and sanitation) should be recognized in our professional associations and communities.

Water/wastewater management and the provision of potable water and safe sanitation services is supported by an extensive network of organizations and individuals working in so many different and interesting roles to ensure that water/wastewater services are delivered in a responsible and affordable manner.  Many of these organizations and individuals are members and active volunteers of the Western Canadian Section of the American Water Works Association (WCS AWWA), the largest non-profit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water/wastewater. AWWA was established in 1881 to bring water/wastewater professionals together to exchange information for the mutual benefit of consumers and providers of water/wastewater, and to deal with major issues facing society at that time (e.g. Cholera). The WCS AWWA is comprised of a Board of Directors and six Committees, all providing their expertise to the industry on a voluntary basis. For example, the Education Committee organizes technical training seminars and workshops, hosted in many centres across Western Canada throughout the year. The Water For People Committee is dedicated to raising awareness and funding for safe water and sanitation programs in developing countries. The Cross Connection Control Committee was developed as a result of public health authorities, water purveyors, and government officials concerns over cross contamination risks in our drinking water distribution systems and now publishes a technical reference manual that is the basis of training programs Canada wide.

We would like to invite anyone interested in our organization to visit our website at www.wcsawwa.net for further details.

Sharmila Acharya, M.Eng, P.Eng                                            Jason Sinclair, P.Eng

WCS-AWWA, Communications Committee Chair             WCS-AWWA, Board Treasurer