News: Member Portrait

Bill Dowbiggin: Sharing His Expertise

Thursday, December 20, 2018  
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 Coming across Bill Dowbiggin’s name in an article featured on a water treatment website, in an Engineering, Planning and Development Guidance document, or among a list of presenters for a Drinking Water Rules and Regulations seminar is a matter of course in North Carolina. This drinking water expert regularly shares the expertise he has developed during his 32 years in the industry. Over the last three decades, Dowbiggin has worked on more than 100 projects, including more than 60 major water treatment plants, 12 of them completely new greenfield initiatives. “I’ve worked on plants from 150 gallons per minute to plants with 225 million gallons per day,” he reflects.


Dowbiggin recalls being “proenvironment and pro-public health” from an early age. After high school, he attended the University of Tennessee- Knoxville and graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1984. But it was while he was pursuing his graduate degree in water resources engineering from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill that he embarked on his lifelong connection with CDM Smith.


 “I first learned of CDM Smith through Paul Prendiville, a company legend who taught the water treatment design course at UNC Chapel Hill,” says Dowbiggin, adding that he later ended up teaching the very same course. “Paul exemplified some of CDM Smith’s best attributes. He had a passion for excellence in engineering, was dedicated to delivering high quality water to customers, and always operated with high integrity. I wanted to work at a firm that valued people like Paul.” Although Dowbiggin had worked as a co-op at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he decided to work with CDM Smith, where he has been ever since.


 Not long after joining CDM Smith, Dowbiggin also joined the North Carolina American Water Works Association – Water Environment Association (NC AWWA-WEA) as a member of the Seminars and Workshops Committee. As part of the committee, he has participated in organizing seminars; helped with training initiatives, such as the operator schools; and delivered presentations at the Annual Conference. “I enjoy my involvement,” says Dowbiggin, who continues to be very active on the committee. “I enjoy the people. I look forward to the NC AWWA-WEA Annual Conference this fall.”


For teaching and presenting, Dowbiggin draws from his varied experience in areas such as water treatment, water quality, and trace contaminants in both drinking water supplies and in indirect potable reuse. “It’s been exciting to work with great clients in our state on all sorts of treatment processes and various sizes of plants,” says Dowbiggin. He has completed work for counties, cities, and water authorities all across North Carolina.


The majority of issues he has dealt with over the years have revolved around water quality. “Disinfection by-products has been an issue since I first started with the company,” notes Dowbiggin. Some of the different control options and technologies he has used to address the problem include enhanced coagulation, alternative coagulants, pH and chemical optimization, alternate oxidants, and activated carbon – both powdered and granular.


 Over the past three decades, Dowbiggin has also witnessed many changes in the industry, including an increase in the use of advanced treatment technology, such as ozonation, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis. These new technologies are among the subjects Dowbiggin broaches in the presentations and seminars he delivers to professionals in the industry.

Dowbiggin’s work has been recognized with many honors and awards from the AWWA and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), starting with accolades for the Best Masters Thesis from AWWA in 1987 to his work on numerous Excellence Award Winning projects recognized by ACEC in recent years. In 2013, he received one of the AWWA’s highest honors – the George Warren Fuller Award for distinguished service in the water supply field.

Today, Dowbiggin continues to serve the industry, both with CDM Smith and as an active volunteer for the NC AWWAWEA. He makes frequent presentations and continues to contribute to a wide swath of articles, reports, and advisory documents. There are ongoing challenges, underlines Dowbiggin, and not all of them involving technology. He points to both aging infrastructure and an aging workforce as significant areas of concern. “It’s hard to find staff to run your water plants,” he notes.


That is all the more reason why sharing his expertise is so important. As the next Dowbiggin who have always been – and continue to be – so generous with their time and knowledge. generation of water treatment engineers and operators prepares to take up the torch, they will owe a debt to experts like Dowbiggin who have always been – and continue to be – so generous with their time and knowledge

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