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News: NC AWWA-WEA News

Water Resources Committee: Making Connections

Monday, December 18, 2017  
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Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of NC Currents magazine.


This spring, the Water Resources Committee was busy pulling together speakers on the importance of land management to the protection of water quality for an upcoming Committee meeting. The connection between land and water is one of many linkages members explore during seminars, face-to-face meetings, and conference calls throughout the year. “We’re interested in the relationship between the various sectors of the water industry,” explains Water Resources Committee Chair Ruth Rouse. “Ours is a more holistic look at water resources.”


The water resources industry is very diverse, broaching subjects ranging from conservation, flood control and stormwater management to drinking water, wastewater treatment, and water reuse. The committee explores these topics against a backdrop of tightening budgets, limited resources, expanding regulatory requirements, and ever-changing environmental conditions due to climate change.


In fact, climate change was the focus of a four-part session organized by the committee for the NC AWWA-WEA Annual Conference last fall. The first part featured a presentation from the State Climate Office on the state of climate research and available data from their office. The second part featured a speaker from the University of North Carolina’s Water Resources Research Institute, linking the latest research on climate change with utility-specific insights. In the third segment, a graduate student working with the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) discussed the potential implications of climate change for water supply planning. The presentation was followed by a talk that focused on climate resiliency planning for coastal communities in North Carolina.


“We all need to be proactively preparing for the future,” notes Rouse, adding that the committee is interested in organizing a similar forward-looking session on a different topic for the 2017 NC AWWA-WEA Annual Conference this November.


As a forum for bringing experts together to share knowledge and ideas on how best to address North Carolina's water resource challenges, the Water Resources Committee has attracted a wide variety of water industry professionals. About half of the committee's 30 members are utility employees while the other half comes from the private sector.  


Rouse, who works at OWASA, considers herself a water resource generalist. “I have expertise with water quality and water resources and I’ve dabbled in other related topics,” she says.

“Being involved with the committee has been a way for me to get connected with specialists in other areas. It’s a way for me to keep my knowledge and ideas fresh.”


This is her second time on the Water Resources Committee, which was revived in 2016 by Leila Goodwin after several years of inactivity. Rouse recalls that the committee formerly played an active role in developing the agenda for the Confluence Conference, jointly organized by North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia sections of the AWWA. This year, the Water Resources Committee will again be playing an active role in shaping the topics and finding speakers. “We share many of the same issues,” says Rouse. “This is an opportunity to expand connections and engage in networking.”


The goals of the committee also include networking with other organizations, such as the North Carolina Water Resources Association (NCWRA), North Carolina American Public Works Association (NCAPWA), North Carolina Water Quality Association (NCWQA), North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR)/Division of Water Resources (DWR) and the Stormwater Association of North Carolina (SWANC) as well as other committees of the NC AWWA-WEA. “We are a good bridge between other committees,” says Rouse, adding that members offer a valuable perspective that combines science and policy.


The Seminars Committee recently reached out to the Water Resources Committee for assistance in putting together June’s day-long seminar on emerging issues in the wastewater sector, including an afternoon panel discussion on reclaimed water. The committee identified university researchers with expertise in water reclamation and public health for the panel discussion. An attorney was also invited to provide insight on legal constraints.


Throughout the year, the Water Resources Committee also hopes to hold at least two of its own panel discussions as part of its committee meeting agendas, to be held in various locations throughout the state. “There’s an opportunity for someone to take ownership of those particular meetings,” notes Rouse. She points out that the events will be linked by webinar for those who cannot attend in person.


The goal is to meet at least four to six times a year either in person or by conference call. New members are welcome to join at any time. “I would like to encourage people to check us out on the NC AWWA-WEA website and attend our session at the conference to see what we’re all about,” says Rouse. “Please feel free to contact me to reach out.”

Ruth Rouse can be reached at

(919) 537-4214 or

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