In business, expertise builds confidence, and confidence builds trust. For water providers, building public trust in water systems is a requirement of the job. Despite some recent and prominent breaches of that trust in public water systems, a majority of water providers are dedicated to ensuring the quality and safety of their water and wastewater systems. This issue of Municipal Water Leader highlights managers who exemplify that dedication through their practices and programs.
“There is a tremendous amount of expertise in the water industry.” In this month’s cover interview, we speak with Charlotte Water Executive Director Barry Gullet about the value of expertise in the water industry and how knowledgeable, engaged, and competent staff lay the groundwork for safe, clean drinking water. A 40-year veteran of the water and wastewater industries who now oversees more than 900 water professionals, Mr. Gullet benefitted from and invested in creating job development opportunities for his employees. Over that time, he learned to “[p]rovide employees with the support and resources they need and then get out of the way and let them do their jobs.”
For Matthew Litchfield of the West Valley Water District (WVWD), building trust means adopting the latest technologies to remediate contaminated groundwater. Mr. Litchfield and WVWD have had to find effective and successful treatments that are cost effective for customers. “Water agencies often are leery of implementing new technologies that have not yet been tested or permitted with the state. In this case, WVWD has completed the hard work of pioneering tests of new technologies to improve treatment efficiency in the water industry, enabling others to benefit from this technology.”
To build trust, good managers set high standards for operations. Mauricio Guardado of the United Water Conservation District has done just that, to ensure the health of the district’s groundwater basins and to stretch its water supplies in drought-stricken times. That is a tall order: The district provides water to agricultural and municipal water providers serving upward of 400,000 people in Southern California. For Mr. Guardado, “Our goal is to maintain these systems to provide the highest-quality service to the public we serve, ensure that our infrastructure is sustainable even in drought conditions, and work collaboratively with all stakeholders to resolve the challenges we all face.”
Preserving trust requires preparation. Steve Drew of the Greensboro, North Carolina, Water Department has made sure his water department is prepared. He has led the department in establishing emergency plans and facilitated cooperation and coordination with neighboring water departments regarding the exchange of water resources. That preparation has translated into community buy-in: “Our strength in Greensboro, both as a community and as a utility, is our culture of progressiveness and a willingness to prepare for the challenges that might be forthcoming for our community.”
Managers like Barry Gullet, Matthew Litchfield, Mauricio Guardado, and Steve Drew are committed to operational expertise, which earns them the support and confidence of the residents within their respective service areas. They deserve recognition for that commitment, and we are honored to provide that.
Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@wateretrategies.com