Leaders Proffer Big Ideas at the Chicago Water Summit

 

By Thomas Kunetz
Posted July 30, 2014
 
 

 

On July 21st, experts from water cities from across the country and across the Atlantic met in Chicago to share their success stories and visions for the future with leaders from water utilities, solution providers, regulatory agencies, investment concerns, and the consulting community at the Chicago Water Summit 2014. The theme of the Summit, presented by the Water Environment Federation and World Business Chicago, was “Global Lessons from Great Water Cities.” 

 

It was no accident that the Summit was held in Chicago, a city that owes its very existence to water. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel set the tone for the Summit in his keynote address: “A quarter of the world’s fresh water is right here in the Great Lakes. It is our Grand Canyon, our Yellowstone. How we deal with it, how we manage it and how we are stewards of it will define our future.” 

 

Experiences from the great water cities were presented in panel discussions addressing lessons learned related to sustainability, innovation, investment in the future, and partnership with the private sector. Panelists challenged the audience to actively promote investment in water infrastructure to the public. “You can't build a 21st century economy on 19th century infrastructure,” said Barrett Murphy from the Chicago Department of Water Management. Harlan Kelly, General Manager of San Francisco Public Utilities, offered his selling point to infrastructure investment: “We create jobs. ‘Jobs’ is a message everyone understands.” 
 

Big problems require big solutions, which mean big-time collaboration.  Albert Cho of Xylem pitched the idea that dealing with water resiliency is actually an opportunity to re-imagine the critical relationships between the transportation, water and energy infrastructures. Special guest speaker Henk Ovink, a master city planner from the Netherlands, urged responders to extreme weather disasters to stop and think before rushing in to rebuild: “Creating time to think is like creating a sabbatical detour, giving you and all your stakeholders the opportunity to take a side step out of reality and be inspired in an innovative way.” He said it is imperative to resist the impulse of societal emotion, which makes us want to put things back the way they were. Instead of repeating our old ways, he said, “We need to create living with water cities.” 

 

It was inspiring to hear how some of the leaders in great water cities are dealing with today’s water challenges. I’m very much looking forward to the next water leaders session at WEFTEC in New Orleans and hope you will be joining us there. 

   

 

 

WaterSummit  WaterSummit 

 

 07/30/2014Permanent link

Leaders Proffer Big Ideas at the Chicago Water Summit  ()
 WEF Board member Thomas Kunetz blogs about The Chicago Water Summit 2014: Global Lessons from Great Water Cities.

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Leaders Proffer Big Ideas at the Chicago Water Summit

 Permanent link

Leaders Proffer Big Ideas at the Chicago Water Summit

 

By Thomas Kunetz
Posted July 30, 2014
 
 

 

On July 21st, experts from water cities from across the country and across the Atlantic met in Chicago to share their success stories and visions for the future with leaders from water utilities, solution providers, regulatory agencies, investment concerns, and the consulting community at the Chicago Water Summit 2014. The theme of the Summit, presented by the Water Environment Federation and World Business Chicago, was “Global Lessons from Great Water Cities.” 

 

It was no accident that the Summit was held in Chicago, a city that owes its very existence to water. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel set the tone for the Summit in his keynote address: “A quarter of the world’s fresh water is right here in the Great Lakes. It is our Grand Canyon, our Yellowstone. How we deal with it, how we manage it and how we are stewards of it will define our future.” 

 

Experiences from the great water cities were presented in panel discussions addressing lessons learned related to sustainability, innovation, investment in the future, and partnership with the private sector. Panelists challenged the audience to actively promote investment in water infrastructure to the public. “You can't build a 21st century economy on 19th century infrastructure,” said Barrett Murphy from the Chicago Department of Water Management. Harlan Kelly, General Manager of San Francisco Public Utilities, offered his selling point to infrastructure investment: “We create jobs. ‘Jobs’ is a message everyone understands.” 
 

Big problems require big solutions, which mean big-time collaboration.  Albert Cho of Xylem pitched the idea that dealing with water resiliency is actually an opportunity to re-imagine the critical relationships between the transportation, water and energy infrastructures. Special guest speaker Henk Ovink, a master city planner from the Netherlands, urged responders to extreme weather disasters to stop and think before rushing in to rebuild: “Creating time to think is like creating a sabbatical detour, giving you and all your stakeholders the opportunity to take a side step out of reality and be inspired in an innovative way.” He said it is imperative to resist the impulse of societal emotion, which makes us want to put things back the way they were. Instead of repeating our old ways, he said, “We need to create living with water cities.” 

 

It was inspiring to hear how some of the leaders in great water cities are dealing with today’s water challenges. I’m very much looking forward to the next water leaders session at WEFTEC in New Orleans and hope you will be joining us there. 

   

 

 

WaterSummit  WaterSummit 

 

Posted by Blaine Menelik at 07/30/2014 03:36:20 PM | 


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 TomKunetz
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Thomas Kunetz
Member of the 2013-2014 Board of Trustees
Water Environment Federation
 

Thomas Kunetz is a member of the 2013-2014 Board of Trustees for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), an international organization of water quality professionals headquartered in Alexandria, Va.Tom is the Assistant Director of Engineering for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, leading the district’s efforts on strategic engineering initiatives, including the ambitious goal to become energy neutral within ten years.

Prior to this assignment, he was head of the district’s engineering design group, a multi-disciplinary staff of 90 engineers and architects who are responsible for the implementation of the District’s multi-million dollar Capital Improvements Program through the production of engineering design contracts for the upgrade and expansion of the District’s seven wastewater treatment plants. In the seven years in this role, Tom administered the engineering design of over $1 billion worth of construction contracts. He has 28 years of experience in the field of environmental engineering, in both the public and private sectors, focusing on design wastewater treatment facilities, improving the water environment, and protection of public health.

Tom is a registered professional engineer in the state of Illinois. He is a graduate of the WEF-sponsored Water and Wastewater Leadership Center at the University of North Carolina, the 2012 recipient of the Charles Walter Nichols Award for Environmental Excellence on the national level from the American Public Works Association, and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers. He has served as technical advisor to the student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World at Northwestern University, traveling to Panama with the students.

Tom earned his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in Water Resources Engineering from Villanova University.