WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 

June 2011, Vol. 48, No. 5

Top Story

Water Authority Teaches Young Citizens To Be Stewards
Education department teaches thousands of children a year
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A hands-on activity held by Albuquerque (N.M.) Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority's education department. Photo courtesy of Sharon Sivinski, education coordinator at the authority. Click for larger image. 
Thousands of children learn about water from the Albuquerque (N.M.) Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority every year. Primarily, the lessons teach children about local water sources and water conservation. 

The authority’s education department has increased the number of educational resources and programs it offers during the past 4 years. The focus on education started after the authority discovered the local aquifer did not hold enough water to provide drinking water for residents. The authority had to begin importing water from the Colorado River to meet water demands, explained Sharon Sivinski, education coordinator at the authority.  

“We really wanted to educate people about where their water came from,” Sivinski said. Because water is such a limited and valuable resource in the area, the authority increased efforts to educate children, teaching them to become stewards of water so it becomes a part of who they are as adults, she explained.

Giving water education presentations in schools
The main education component is a series of classroom presentations, each featuring a hands-on activity, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The authority also holds puppet shows for students in kindergarten through third grade.

“We talk about the utility and water conservation, why we need to save water, and how you can save water,” Sivinski said.  

Last year the authority gave 601 presentations to 14,149 children, with 75% of the presentations given in elementary schools. Sivinski expects to increase the number of presentations in middle schools this year with the release of a new educational video on the energy-water nexus called “Power Couple: The Shocking True Story of Water and Electricity,” she said.

The 8-minute video was created by the authority, in collaboration with the local electricity company PNM (Albuquerque), because nothing had been done on the topic before, Sivinski said. Through the authority’s involvement in Project WET (Bozeman, Mont.), Sivinski is part of an e-mail list that enables U.S. educators to share ideas for water-related lessons and activities. When someone asked about educating students about the energy-water nexus, no one had any ideas or suggestions for resources on the topic.

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The Power Couple video teaches about the relationship between electricity and water. Photo courtesy of Sivinski. Click for larger image.
Employees at the authority and a PNM employee developed the concept, wrote a script, auditioned local students to be actors, and put the project out for bid. A professional filmed the movie, and the PNM employee edited the film. It premiered Jan. 4 at a local “green carpet” event, Sivinski said. “A lot of people that had interest in this kind of thing were able to work on it, so it worked out really well,” she said.

Premiering in local libraries, the puppet shows described the water cycle and the gas, liquid, and solids phases of water, and emphasized the need to conserve and keep water clean. The hand-held puppets, depicting desert animals, were used to explain how animals save water and how humans can save water, too, Sivinski said.
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The shows, which include songs written and sung by one of the authority’s part-time educators, were so popular in libraries the authority expanded the program to summer school presentations and then to schools during the regular school year, Sivinski said. Last year, the authority held puppet shows for 5000 students.

Sivinski will begin writing shows soon for next school year. “It’s going to be scary stories about people who are wasting water,” she said. 

The authority's education department also presents puppet shows teaching children about water conservation and other water-related topics. Photos courtesy of Sivinski. Click for larger images.

Offering a wide variety of educational tools and activities
Resources the authority uses in the classroom, some available online, include games and activities, coloring and activity books, online diagrams of the authority’s water system and operation, and scripts for songs and puppet shows.

The authority also sponsors the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Children’s Water Festival, where 1000 fourth-graders and their teachers participate in five workshops, each featuring a hands-on activity about water, led by local water professionals.

Developing educational tools and presentations
Sivinski has 15 years of teaching experience at all grade levels and is responsible for everything from designing and drawing activity and coloring books and creating Web-based interactive features to giving classroom presentations and tours of the authority’s reclamation plant. In addition, the authority employs

a contractor and four part-time teachers who are responsible for giving a majority of the classroom presentations, Sivinski said.

Sivinski also creates educational activities for classrooms, which often are based on requests by the teachers and professionals giving the presentations. For example, she created the engineering clean-water activity at the request of an engineer presenting at the Children’s Water Festival. For this, children put the authority’s seven steps of cleaning water in order, before they are “ready to be engineers,” Sivinski said. From a bucket of blue beads, representing water, children working in teams use tools provided to pick out plastic pieces, metal washers, aquarium gravel, and sand from the water. The activity teaches the process and requirements for cleaning water, develops critical thinking skills, and portrays the profession of engineering, she said.  

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Above, Sivinski gives a group of children a tour of the authority's wastewater treatment plant. Left, a hands-on educational activity held at the authority's Water Festival. Photos courtesy of Sivinski. Click for larger images.
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Education activities meet state standards and benchmarks
Originally, the education department offered a few different presentation options for all ages, but Sivinski reformatted the presentations so they tie into the topics that students are required to learn each year, as required by the No Child Left Behind standards and benchmarks, she said. “All of our presentations are tied into what they have to learn that year.

“We try to make the program something that a teacher will want to invite us in for,” Savinski said. For example, the presentations will teach younger children about the water cycle but also discuss how the utility cleans water or what not to pour down the drain, she said. “We work in stuff we want to talk about, but we always tie it to standards and benchmarks.”

An interactive activity held by the authority teaches students about water pollution. Photo courtesy of Sivinski. Click for larger image.

The future of water education in Albuquerque
The education department continues to expand its content. Sivinski is working on a new part of the authority’s Web page that will take children on a tour of the wastewater treatment plant, showing different stages of cleaning water and offering activities at each stage online. The page is scheduled to be live on the authority education Web site July 1. 

Sivinski also wants to find a way to bring water activities into middle schools and high schools, she said. “We’re trying to think of a way we could go into schools and work with the teachers to set up a water day on campus,” she said. The authority would help science teachers set up various educational water activities for students to do during their science classes, she explained.

“I think it’s important to make sure that children understand that they are stewards of our resources and our world, but I also think it’s really important to show them how they can be good stewards,” Sivinski said. Albuquerque’s education program tries to show children ways how to do this, to become stewards and protect water resources in a positive way, she added.  

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An interactive activity held by the authority teaches students about water phases and the "journey" of water. Photo courtesy of Sivinski. Click for larger image.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
Showing a United Front
WEF and AWWA hold a ‘fly-in’ to advocate water and wastewater issues on Capitol Hill

In April, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA; Denver) held their first jointly sponsored fly-in — a 2-day event in which more than 100 members of both organizations met congressional delegations from their respective states and shared their views on water- and wastewater-related issues. The congressional visits were followed by a feedback session conducted at a closing luncheon.

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AWWA has held a fly-in for the past 10 years, but this was the first year WEF participated. Also, a contingent of members from the New England Water Environment Association (Woburn, Mass.) that was holding its own congressional breakfast participated in the event.    
Members from the New England Water Environment Association (Woburn, Mass.) at the reception for the fly-in. WEF photo/Nick Bardis. Click for larger image.

“We believe there is great value in presenting a strong, unified voice on behalf of the water sector,” said Tim Williams, managing director of leadership and public policy at WEF. “Additionally, working together on the Washington fly-in provides an opportunity for WEF Member Associations and AWWA sections to work together locally. We think this will lead to other cooperative efforts on government affairs and other topics.”

Jeffrey Eger, executive director at WEF, also said the joint event worked to the water and wastewater sectors’ advantage.

“The event confirmed the kind of energy that can be created when we bring together the water professionals from around the country for a common purpose,” Eger said.  

Shelagh Connelly, president of Resource Management Inc. (Holderness, N.H.), appreciated the networking opportunities the fly-in offered, she said.

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From left, Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member from California John Morris, WEF chief technical officer Eileen O'Neill, WEF executive director Jeff Eger, and WEF managing director of leadership and public policy Tim Williams at the fly-in reception. WEF photo/Nick Bardis. Click for larger image.

“The gathering was excellent, and it allowed the drinking water and wastewater people to mingle and swap stories and information about getting our stories in front of our elected officials,” Connelly added.

The sectors also showed a united front by wearing “Water Matters” buttons during the event.

“The ‘Water Matters’ buttons were a huge hit, and I wish we had loads of them to give out to everyone we met with,” Connelly said.

Scott Cummings, senior project manager at CH2M Hill (Englewood, Colo.) and WEF member, participated in the event because he serves as chairman of the government affairs committee for Alabama’s Water Environment Association (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), he said.

“We definitely saw the need to network with the Alabama congressional delegation,” Cummings said.

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WEF and AWWA members at the fly-in reception April 5. WEF photos/Nick Bardis. Click for larger images.

At the event, Cummings was able to meet Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Mo Brooks, both Republicans from Alabama.  

Topics that were important to Cummings at the fly-in included funding — “which is critical to everybody,” he said. In addition to promoting the maintenance of the current levels of clean water and drinking water state revolving funds (SRFs), Cummings also was interested in discussions about the water infrastructure finance innovations authority, a new water infrastructure support mechanism proposed by AWWA and WEF, which would provide low-cost funding to SRFs and water and wastewater utilities that need to invest in infrastructure. Another concern is the growing interest in stormwater projects, he added.

“We worry that it may start tapping into the Clean Water SRF, and it would take money from other badly needed projects,” Cummings said.   

Susan Sullivan, deputy director of the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (Lowell, Mass.), participated in the fly-in because “in New England we are particularly concerned about the federal budget and the SRF,” she said. They also are concerned about nutrient regulations, stormwater issues, funding of infrastructure improvements, and operator training.

Many first-time attendees learned techniques on how to approach members of Congress on their turf, and these new experiences are the most rewarding for staff to watch, said Tommy Holmes, legislative director at AWWA.

“They have a lot of questions and anxiety coming into the fly-in, but at the end of the event, they tell us how much fun it was and how they felt like they accomplished something worthwhile for their profession,” Holmes said.

Williams considered the first joint fly-in to be a success, he said.

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The NEWEA congressional breakfast. Above, Sen. Bernie Sanders (second from right) from Vermont, who spoke at the breakfast, talks to breakfast attendees. Below right, Rep. Chellie Pingree from Maine speaks at the breakfast. WEF photos/Nick Bardis. Click for larger images.
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“Forty-nine states were represented,” Williams said. “For next year, our goal will be to have all 50 states, increase the representation from the larger states like California, and increase coordination between WEF and AWWA associations at the local level.”

To do this, both organizations will work with WEF Member Associations and AWWA sections through the summer and fall to plan for next year’s event, Williams explained.

The next joint WEF and AWWA fly-in will be held in Washington, D.C., March 7–8.   
— LaShell Stratton–Childers, WEF Highlights
From the President: Rising to the Call of Stormwater
WEF works to expand stormwater resources and engage those inside and outside of WEF to get involved
Jeanette Brown

So many of us are faced with stormwater and wet weather issues that are complex and have significant associated costs. There is so much happening with regulations, training, and the need for public education. It is so critical that everyone involved in these issues has the best and most updated information available, and the Water Environment Federation is committed to providing it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently is undergoing major rulemaking on stormwater regulations — the “biggest change in a generation” — according to one EPA official. Effluent and turbidity discharge limits from construction sites are being proposed, legislation requiring federal payments of stormwater fees has been passed, and sanitary sewer overflows and green infrastructure received renewed focus from EPA with the unveiling of EPA’s updated Green Infrastructure Strategy in May. And these are just the developments on the federal level.

To reflect the many changes regarding stormwater, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has ramped up its own efforts on these issues.

Jeanette Brown, 2010–2011 WEF President. Photo courtesy of Oscar and Associates Inc. (Chicago).

First of all, I have to mention the energy from WEF’s leaders. In a previous column, I introduced you to Jeff Eger, WEF’s new executive director, and I described his background in green infrastructure. Since that time, it has become clear that Jeff not only has a background in stormwater, but also has a passion for it. Great changes often start at the grassroots level, but strength and focus at the top don’t hurt either.

WEF also established the Stormwater Coordinating Council last year, which was the culmination of an internal review by the board of trustees in which they took stock of WEF’s programming, policy, and collaborative potential and determined a need to address stormwater.

The council met at WEFTEC® last year, and since then has held regular conference calls to share what WEF committees are doing in stormwater. This group sees the advantage to work with WEF Member Associations (MAs) on stormwater, as several of these groups have formed their own stormwater committees. The council also is in the process of developing another body that ideally would be populated by MA stormwater committee chairs, professionals who practice primarily in stormwater issues, and researchers and academics who focus on stormwater.

WEF needs to put this internal work to good use by developing products, such as publications, programming, and events that focus on stormwater and wet weather issues, which requires input and assistance from all of WEF’s members. Many are already pitching in, including the WEF volunteers who currently are putting the finishing touches on an updated stormwater book, webcasts, and upcoming seminars on stormwater utilities.

In addition, WEF has submitted a proposal to EPA to develop a technical publication on green infrastructure that will target the nuts-and-bolts, practitioner-level audience. And WEFTEC 2011 will feature continuous stormwater and wet weather programming in every time slot. This includes a special “hot topic” session on industrial stormwater and a National Environment Priorities session featuring high-level EPA officials and a panel discussion on green infrastructure focusing on the economic benefits of this practice.

To address the rising demand on funding issues related to stormwater, WEF is presenting a stormwater utility seminar in Chicago on Aug. 2, which will focus on technical, legal, and policy issues. A similar seminar is in the planning stages for later in the year. WEF also is planning a stormwater symposium for the summer 2012. If you want to help plan this event or get involved in any of WEF’s other stormwater activities, contact Seth Brown at sbrown@wef.org.

Members who want to keep up to date on stormwater news and events and WEF’s activities in the areas of stormwater, watershed management, and wet weather can sign up for WEF’s new free, monthly e-newsletter, The Stormwater Report, at www.wef.org/stormwater.

With all of this going on, WEF cannot work in a vacuum. Collaboration with other organizations and outreach, inside and outside of WEF membership, is crucial to our mission to disseminate information, represent the water-quality professional community, and ultimately, be the “go-to” organization on stormwater.

WEF is working hand in hand with many groups, including the Association of States and Interstates Water Pollution Control Administrators (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), American Rivers (Washington, D.C.), and others to develop a list of principles we can agree on to provide a united front on stormwater when the proposed rulemaking comes out in September. WEF also acts as a reviewer for the American Society of Civil Engineers (Reston, Va.) Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s development of a safety guideline document focusing on stormwater design.

At the regulatory level, WEF has formed a partnership with EPA on green infrastructure through a series of meetings, webcasts, publications, and technical events. This significant partnership reflects EPA’s trust in WEF’s technical strength and ability to deliver high-quality products, feedback, and non-biased technical input on critical issues.

The topic of stormwater is growing in importance, and WEF is rising to the call to provide more resources on the topic. Even at the board of trustees meeting, held the first week in May, stormwater was discussed during a presentation by Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Water, that focused on updates on regulations related to stormwater and wet weather issues. I am proud to see WEF staff and members engaging so readily on this important topic and encourage those not already involved to start.  

— Jeanette Brown, 2010–2011 WEF President
WEF Staff Helps Students Learn About Water


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At the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Youth Summit station, students use Play-Doh, leaves, sticks, and rocks to make splash blocks into natural waterways. WEF photos/Kristina Twigg (left) and Melissa Jackson (above). Click for larger images.  
Volunteers from the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) judged student presentations and hosted hands-on activities at an Earth Force (Denver) annual Youth Summit May 10 at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. 

Nearly 350 teachers and students from local middle schools participated in the summit, presenting proposals for Earth Force’s Caring for Our Watersheds competition. Eileen O’Neill, WEF chief technical officer, served as a contest judge and described the event as “an energizing experience from start to finish.”

Most projects focused on protecting urban waterways from nonpoint source pollution and erosion and included creative ways to engage the public. The winning proposal, “A Garden To Teach Others,” by H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program (Arlington, Va.), was a native plant demonstration garden showcasing native plant benefits and the importance of protecting watersheds from invasive species. Teacher Kathy Molina and her sixth-grade students received $1000 to implement their idea as well as congratulations from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).
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Above, Eileen O’Neill (center of photo), WEF chief technical officer, judges the contest at the Youth Summit. Below, students from H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program (Arlington, Va.) give the Youth Summit winning presentation “A Garden To Teach Others.”  WEF photos/Melissa Jackson. Click for larger image. 
“This summit is the kind of initiative that can create public awareness and support for measures to protect water quality,” O’Neill said. “After all, who can resist the call to action for a good cause from an impassioned sixth-grader?”

After the presentations, students let loose by participating in hands-on educational activities hosted by partner organizations. At WEF’s station, students used Play-Doh along with leaves, sticks, and rocks to transform plastic splash blocks — representing man-made, concrete channels — into natural waterways, complete with trees, beavers, bridges, sandbars, and more. The activity represented restoration efforts for the local waterway, Four Mile Run. 
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At the end, students poured water into their models and observed how vegetation and soil affect water movement. This demonstration taught students that while both natural waterways and concrete channels provide flood protection, natural streams increase groundwater infiltration, offer animal habitat, and filter pollutants from stormwater runoff. “I was impressed with how creative the groups were and how well they grasped the water quality concepts,” said Rebecca Arvin, WEF distance learning coordinator, one of the staff volunteers at the event.

The summit aligned closely with WEF’s mission to safeguard water quality and provided WEF staff with an opportunity to serve the community. “One reason WEF is such an effective organization is that our members and our staff share a strong commitment to protection of the water environment,” O’Neill said.     
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Above, students pour water into the waterway models to see how natural elements affect water movement. Below, students show off their finished waterway models. WEF photos/Melissa Jackson. Click for larger images.  
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— Kristina Twigg, WEF Highlights
WEF Staff Makes a Splash in Celebration of Earth Day 2011

A group of employees from the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) showed their commitment to clean water by braving heavy rain and cool temperatures to pick up litter from the Potomac River waterfront for Earth Day 2011. Ten staff members collected five bags of trash and five bags of recycling in the Oronoco Bay Park on April 8, as an early start to the 23rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup event.

The cleanup lasted approximately 2 hours, and WEF staff members were joined by two additional volunteers from Clarke (Roselle, Ill.), an environmental products and services company. The annual cleanup event, organized by the Alice Ferguson Foundation (Accokeek, Md.), included 7750 volunteers at 418 registered sites who helped clean 186 Mg (205 ton) of litter from waterways around Washington, D.C., according to Alice Ferguson Foundation Web site.  

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WEF staff volunteers included (pictured from left) Brittany Burch, Kristina Twigg, Rebecca Arvin, Jennifer Chavira, Grace Woo, Britt Sheinbaum, Jessica Rozek, and (not pictured) Tim Moran, Jeff Frederick, and Jennifer Fulcher. WEF photo/Jeff Frederick. Click for larger image.

“Thanks to all our dedicated staff volunteers who coordinated the event with the City of Alexandria and worked in the rain to support a cleaner environment,” said Linda Kelly, managing director of communications for WEF. See the Earth Day 2011 Potomac River Watershed Cleanup gallery.
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In addition, the WEF Eco program hosted a WEF Eco Earth Day Celebration on April 21 for all staff members. Speaker Jesse Maines, senior environmental specialist in Transportation and Environmental Services and the Office of Environmental Quality at the City of Alexandria, presented an overview of the city’s Eco-City Alexandria Initiative and described ways to participate in the initiative. WEF communications associate Grace Woo also spoke at the event, providing a brief overview of the Earth Day Network’s Billion Acts of Green Campaign and how it ties in with supporting local farms and eating local foods. Keeping with this theme, attendees enjoyed Pleasant Pops popsicles made from local ingredients.

Last year WEF staff marked storm drains as part of a City of Alexandria’s public education effort. See the Earth Day 2010 storm drain project gallery.

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WEF staff picking up litter from the waterfrton in Alexandria, Va. WEF photos/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger images.

Among the items picked up from the waterfront, WEF staff volunteers compiled a list of interesting finds during the cleanup:

Most often found
Polystyrene foam
Plastic bottles
Bottle caps

Biggest waste
Long plastic sheet at least 6 m (20 ft) long

Most interesting
Lunch box

Biggest surprise
Finding out that one of your waterproof rain boots was not waterproof at all

Item someone is missing the most
Washington, D.C., parking ticket
Lunch box (How else are they going to carry their lunch?)

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WEF staff clean up litter floating in and along the Potomac River for Earth Day 2011. WEF photo/Jennifer Fulcher. Click for larger image.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
In Memoriam: Orris E. Albertson

Orris “Orrie” E. Albertson, president and owner of Enviro Enterprises Inc. (Salt Lake City) and life member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), died April 22.

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Albertson, born March 5, 1933, in Aberdeen, Wash., received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in sanitary (environmental) engineering, both from the University of Washington (Seattle). After school, he worked as an engineer and director of Technology for Dorr-Oliver Inc. (Stamford, Conn.), and then in 1973 he became manager of Turnkey Systems for Envirotech (Belmont, Calif.). In 1974, Albertson became vice president of Technology and Development at Eimco Water Technologies (Salt Lake City). In 1974 he opened Enviro Enterprises.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Albertson. Click for larger image.

Albertson, a WEF member since 1956, received the Thomas R. Camp Medal from WEF in 2008. He also received the American Society of Civil Engineers (Reston, Va.) Samuel Arnold Greely Award in 1996 and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (Annapolis, Md.) Kappe Lecture Award in 1997.  

Albertson was “a leading authority on wastewater treatment with over 100 publications and 40 United States patents, and many innovations to improve water quality,” according to the Web site www.OrrisEarlAlbertson.muchloved.com.