Great Water Cities – Continuing the Conversations

Here at the Water Environment Federation, we believe leaders in our industry must continue to rise above the day-to-day issues---transforming how we work to make cities more sustainable, livable, and prosperous. The WEF Great Water Cities (GWC) dialogue series provides a forum for water leaders who inspire all, driving transformational shifts at their organizations, effectively changing the culture, communicating strategically, and engaging their communities for a more resilient future.  Their visionary thinking and timely experience is shared through information exchange and identification of effective practices in GWC panels addressing today’s biggest challenges for the water professions, sector, and institutions. The conversations started at WEFTEC in 2011 and have continued through conference sessions and summits at various locations since.

Lessons learned from the innovative leaders at GWC dialogues can help cities of all sizes get on the path to becoming a Great Water City. 




Watch Daniel Zarrilli’s thought-provoking keynote address from Great Water Cities Summit 2017: Invest4Resilience.


GWC Invest4Resilience Masthead

May 15-16, 2017, New York, New York

This program explored physical and financial resilience and infrastructure investment tools that communities need to ensure reliable and well-managed systems. Through the prism of what challenges communities will face in the future, experts from Main Street to Wall Street discussed the most dependable and current financing resources utilities need to help their communities flourish. Water sector leaders and experts from across the infrastructure financing world walked away from this program with innovative ideas on how best to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

View the Invest4Resilience Program | View the Invest4Resilence Presentations*

Keynote Speakers: Lykke Leonardsen
, Program Director Green City Solutions – City of Copenhagen

Daniel A. Zarrilli, PE, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, and Chief Resilience Officer, NYC Office of the Mayor

Watch Daniel Zarrilli’s thought-provoking keynote address? Follow the link below to view the full and unedited video on Facebook.

Panel 1: Physical Resilience – Managing Risk

Great Water Cities are more resilient because they manage risk. Planning for physical resilience encompasses investments in the management of risk to existing assets as well as envisioning their future investment needs. Infrastructure maintenance and upgrades require great resources, partnerships, and expertise – Great Water Cities invest in innovation, research, and entrepreneurship as tools for managing risk. Panelists will discuss how they have managed the risks to their physical assets and how they see and plan on addressing future risks.

Moderator: Robin A. Barnes, Executive Vice President & COO, Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Panelists: Anthony Maracic, PE, NYC DEP, Bureau of Wastewater Treatment, Director Asset Management and Capital Projects

Traci J. Minamide, P.E., B.C.E.E., Chief Operating Officer, City of Los Angeles, LA Sanitation.

Alex Kaplan, Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Senior Client Manager, Swiss Re.

Lynette Cardoch, Ph.D., National Director, Coastal Resiliency at HDR Inc.

Panel 2: Financial Resilience – From Wall Street to Main Streets

Great Water Cities invest in financial resilience because it is the basis of a sustainable future. Wall Street and Main Street, partnering together, increase resilience and strengthens investments that support growing communities. In the United States and around the world, communities’ leaders, investors and stakeholders have combined forces to build resilient financial mechanisms and products that innovate and grow, making the future brighter and more secure. Speakers in this panel will explore how solid financial planning and investment together with innovative thinking can help Great Water Cities achieve their financial goals.

Moderator: Sabrina M. Ty, President & CEO, New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation

Panelists: Dean Fuleihan, Director, Office of Management and Budget, Board Member, Municipal Water Finance Authority, New York City

Tim Williams, Managing Director, Public Power & Utilities, RBC Capital Markets

Neil J. Flanagan, Managing Director, Public Finance, Jefferies, LLC

Thomas Liu, Managing Director, Water and Wastewater/SRF Group, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Panel 3: Workforce Resilience – Building the Team of the Future

Great Water Cities invest in workforce resilience by building the team of the future.  Communities are investing in identifying what the team of the future will look like – comfortable with technology and innovation, adaptive, cross-trained, and engaged in their community. Resilient communities are investing in institutional elements that strengthen their workforce and plans for the team of the future, making sure they will address their needs. This panel will bring together leaders who are investing in a team of the future and workforce who will reflect their increasingly resilient investments.

Moderator: Michael J. Garland, P.E., Director of Environmental Services, Monroe County, NY

Panelists: Rudolph S. Chow, Director, Department of Public Works, City of Baltimore, MD

Harlan L. Kelly, Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Diana Jones Ritter, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Organizational Development, NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

Case Study and Discussion: Insurance Defection

Should communities facing flood risk stop paying insurance and start resilient transformation?

This Case Study session will examine quantifiable examples of how flood risk-prone communities can approach physical resiliency at a neighborhood scale, through an evaluation of the current NFIP insurance program and other financing mechanisms. The examples will illustrate and compare the present value of various recovery-based financing against debt service on different phases of resilient capital projects. This session will be interactive to allow for a dialogue with the Presenters.

Presenter: Peter Glus, P.E., B.C.E.E., City Executive for NYC and Director of North American Big Urban Clients, Arcadis.

Case Study and Discussion: Financial Resilience

This Case Study session will focus on how to increase financial resilience by accounting for the full lifecycle of assets through alternative project delivery models. This highly-interactive session will examine specific projects and provide the opportunity to dialogue with the Presenters.

Presenters: Andrew D. Sawyers, Ph.D., Director, Office of Waste Water Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Michael Patella, Senior Policy Advisor, Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

*These slides are copyright protected and any use of them must be approved by WEF and the creator of the slide being used. 


GWC Water4Growth

November 1-2, 2016, Centralvaerkstedet/Aarhus, Denmark

This meeting, which focused on how sustainable cities continue to grow with water and accelerate economic development through partnerships, provided leaders in the water sector with the opportunity to share experiences and learn how others are attracting businesses, advancing innovation, and improving the quality of life—all while linking economic growth with water in a transformative new vision where water is the engine of growth.

View Water4Growth Program

Panel I – Great Water Cities Are Sustainable

Moderator: Dr. Paul Bowen, Director of Sustainable Operations, The Coca-Cola Company, WEF, USA


Mrs. Simone Raskop
, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Construction, City of Essen, Green Capital of Europe 2017, Germany

Lars Schroder
, CEO, Aarhus Water Ltd., Aarhus, Denmark

Dr. Wolf Merkel/David Schwesig
, IWW Research Center, Germany

Pritha Hariram
, Manager, Water Supply & Sanitation Services, International Water Association (IWA), The Hague, Netherlands

Panel II – Great Water Cities Combine Water with Growth

Moderator: Gari Villa-Landa Sokolova, Head of International Affairs, Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation


Rene Hoejimakers
, Global Executive Director, Ramboll Water, Netherlands

Karen Pallansch
, CEO, Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Alexandria, VA, USA

Dr. Håkan Tropp
, Director, Water Governance, SIWI, Sweden

Karen Kubick
, Director, Wastewater Enterprise Capital Improvement Program, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco, CA, USA

Panel III – Great Water Cities Accelerate Water Based Development

Moderator: Durk Krol, Director, WSSTP – The European Platform for Water Research, Brussels, Belgium


Dr. Emanuel Grün
, COO, Emschergenossenschaft/Lippeverband, Germany

Dr. Kartik Chandran
, Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Jonathan Grant
, Manager of Research, WaterTap Toronto, Canada

Meghan Jensen
, Director of Marketing and Membership, The Water Council, Global Water Center, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Panel IV – Great Water Cities Develop Partnerships

Moderator: Claus Homann, COO, Aarhus Vand A/S, WEF, Denmark


Jakob Andersen
, Trade Commissioner and Consul General, Chicago, IL, USA

Kenth Hvid Nielsen
, Group Vice President, Global Market Center Water Utility, Grundfos, Denmark

Professor Jes la Cour Jansen
, Lund University, Sweden

Karen Pallansch
, CEO, Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Alexandria, VA, USA 

Creating the Future of Water

GWC weftec Masthead

Monday, September 26, 2016 | New Orleans, La.

Great Water Cities require great water leaders. Global water challenges and opportunities are as diverse as the urban areas and people served by our urban water utilities. Accordingly, diverse leadership styles and backgrounds are needed to induce a change in these cities. Each of these water leaders engages in and address urban water challenges by drawing upon a variety of backgrounds, approaches, and management philosophies from around the globe. The 2016 special water leaders’ session at WEFTEC explored real-world examples through high-level discussion to learn from global leaders and inform other Great Water Cities of all sizes facing similar challenges.

Moderator: Cedric S. Grant; Executive Director, Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans


George Hawkins; CEO, DC Water

Raveen Jaduram
; Chief Executive, Watercare Services Limited

Heiner Markhoff
; CEO, GE Power & Water’s Water & Process Technologies

Peter Ng
; Chief Executive, Singapore Public Utility Board

Rainfall to Results in Action

GWC Rainfall Masthead

May 10-11, 2016 | Chicago, Ill.

This program built on the WEF Stormwater Institute’s landmark Rainfall to Results: The Future of Stormwater report and provided the catalyst for the continued advancement of several key areas of managing stormwater runoff and valuing it as a resource. Thought leaders from various sectors who are impacted by and manage urban stormwater and water resources addressed topics including closing the funding gap, managing assets and resources, work at the watershed scale and supporting innovation and best practices.

View Rainfall to Results: The Future of Stormwater Program


Panel 1 – Close the Funding Gap

Moderator:  Prisca Weems – Stormwater Manager for City of New Orleans, LA

Panelists and Topics:

  • Green Bonds, Century Bonds and Other Innovative Funding Mechanisms
    Daniel Hartman, Managing Director and Co-Head Utilities Group, Public Financial Management, Inc.
  • Perspective From Policy Makers on P3s
    Preston Bryant, Former Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources
  • EPA Funding Communities in Need              
    Andrew Sawyers, Director, Office of Wastewater Management

  • Newcomer’s Perspective on Partnerships
    Karen Sands, Director of Planning, Research and Sustainability, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District 


Panel 2 – Manage “Human” Assets and Resources

Moderator:  Karen Kubick, Director of the Wastewater Enterprise Capital Improvement Program for the City and County of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)

Panelists and Topics:

  • Green Infrastructure Certification Program
    Korey Gray, Business Development Officer, DC Water
  • Green Jobs and Cultural Change
    David St. Pierre, Executive Director, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
  • Human Asset Management
    Rudy Chow, Director, Baltimore Department of Public Works
  • Blending Green Infrastructure With Grey Infrastructure
    Paul Vogel, Executive Vice President, Greeley and Hansen

Panel 3 – Work at the Watershed Scale

Moderator: Sandra Ralston – Principal, Consensus, LLC

Panelists and Topics:

  • Regional/Watershed Permits
    Dave Gatterman, Environmental Services Director, Southern Sandoval County – Arroyo Flood Control Authority
  • Integrated Planning
    Dr. Robert Considine and Ryan Brotchie, Manager of Water Services Planning, Integrated Planning, Melbourne Water and GHD Australia
  • Stormwater Impacts (upstream/downstream)
    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works


Panel 4 – Support Innovation and Best Practices

Moderator:  Bob Adair (Houston, TX) – President, Convergent Water Technologies

Panelists and Topics:

  • Current Stormwater Product Evaluations – STEPP
    Chris French, WEF Stormwater Director
  • Big Data Management
    Marcus Quigley, CEO, OptiRTC
  • Advancing Stormwater Knowledge Through Innovation Clusters
    Egils Milbergs, Center for Accelerating Innovation



The Impact of Leadership: Culture, Communication and Community in Great Water Cities

GWC weftec Masthead

Monday, September 28, 2015 | Chicago, Ill.

All water utilities and cities are faced with rapidly varying pressures. Whether it’s shifting economic conditions, increasing regulations or a changing climate, strong leadership is needed to plan, respond, and move quickly, all while maintaining current levels of service.  These water leaders are driving transformational shifts at their organizations, effectively changing the culture, communicating strategically, and engaging the community for a more resilient future.


Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board of California

Tony Parrott, Executive Director, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati

Lars Schroeder, CEO, Aarhus Water Ltd.

David St. Pierre, Executive Director, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Susan Story, President and CEO, American Water

Collaborating for a Resilient Future

GWC weftec Masthead

July 21-22, 2015 | New Orleans, La.

This Summit aimed to advance the discussion on how the water sector is collaborating, managing water in extreme conditions, addressing workforce development and economic challenges, and continuing to foster innovation and investment.

View Collaborating for a Resilient Future Program

Panel 1 – Utility/Utility Collaboration

Moderator: Lynn Broaddus, President, Broadview Collaborative


Barry Gullet, Director, Charlotte Water

Scott Haskins
, Sr. Vice President & Director of Strategic Consulting, CH2M

Tony Parrot
, Executive Director, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati

Panel 2 – Managing Water in Extremes

Moderator: Julie Minton, Director of Research Programs, WateReuse


Adel Hagekalil
, Assistant Director, Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation

Vincent Sapienza
, Deputy Commissioner, NYCDEP

Waggonner, President, Waggonner & Ball Architects

Doug Yoder
, Deputy Director, Miami Dade Water & Sewer

Panel 3 – Workforce Development & Economics

Moderator: Ashleigh Gardere, Sr. Advisor to the Mayor, City of New Orleans


Karen Pallansch
, CEO, Alexandria Renew Enterprises

Joanie Mahoney
, County Executive, Onondaga County

Michael Ruffin
, Program Manager, The Network for Economic Opportunity

Ted Henifin
, General Manager, HRSD

Panel 4 – Innovation and Investment

Moderator: Mike Eckert, Chairman, Propeller Water Accelerator – NO/LA Angel Network


Ernest Jolly
, Energy Chief, DC Water

Andrew Richardson
, CEO, Greeley & Hansen

Sue Schneider
, CEO, Spartanburg Water

Martin Vilhelmsen
, Project Manager, RAMBOLL

Panel 5 – Katrin+10 and Beyond: How will we be measuring progress?

Moderator: Robin Barnes, Executive Vice President and COO, Greater New Orleans, Inc.


Claire Anderson
, Project Co-Director of Ripple Effect

Ginny Hanusik
, Water Program Coordinator, Propeller Water Accelerator

Read Original Great Water Cities Concept Paper


Paths to Livability, Prosperity and Resilience

GWC weftec Masthead

Monday, September 29, 2014 | New Orleans, La.

This special water leader's session focused on water, wastewater and stormwater systems in the face of climate change, extreme events, utility emergencies, and natural disasters. Leaders from diverse cities recognize that conventional practices are not sufficient solutions and are using smarter approaches to manage water demands, increase resiliency, enhance livability, and conserve resources. This panel of global thought-leaders was another in a series of dialogues examining case studies and engaging in discussion to distill lessons learned from leading cities and informing other great water cities of all sizes facing similar challenges.

Welcome and Opening Remarks
Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, P.E., Deputy General Manager, Clean Water Services


Jean-Luc Bertrand-Krajewski, Professor, Civil Engineering and Urban Planning Department National Institute for Applied Sciences, Lyon, France

Duncan Gibb, Executive General Manager of Stronger Christ Church Infrastructure Rebuild Team, New Zealand

James Roberts, P.E., Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Global Lessons from Great Water Cities

GWC 2014 Masthead

July 21, 2014 | Chicago, Ill.

Great Water Cities have smarter ways to meet water needs and enhance resiliency; use innovative practices to strengthen sustainability; increase jobs and tax revenue from investment in water infrastructure, and promote partnerships in the private sector to achieve sustainability, innovation, and strategic objectives. Four panels of experts addressed each of those topic areas during this historic first meeting.

Panel 1 - Great Water Cities are Sustainable

Moderator: Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago


Howard Neukrug, Commissioner, Philadelphia Water Department

Albert Cho
, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Xylem

Emilio Tenuta
, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Ecolab (NALCO)

Karen Sands
, Manager of Sustainability, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District

Panel 2 - Great Water Cities Embrace Innovation

Moderator: David St. Pierre, Executive Director, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago


Ted Henifin, General Manager, Hampton Roads Sanitation District

Christian Guenner, Director of System Development, Hamburg Wasser, Hamburg, Germany

Dr. Peter Gravatt, Director, Office of Drinking Water, US Environmental Protection Agency

Tali Landau-Ofer
, Finance Director, TaKaDu Ltd., Yehud, Israel

Panel 3 - Great Water Cities Invest in the Future

Moderator: Barrett Murphy, First Deputy Commissioner of Water Management,
City of Chicago


Harlan Kelly, Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities

John Austin
, Director, Michigan Economic Center, and Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Cedric S. Grant
, Executive Director, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, Louisiana

Dieter Sauer
, President, Water Utility Division, Grundfos North America

Panel 4 - Great Water Cities Partner with the Private Sector

Moderator: Jon Freedman, Vice President, Government & Policy, GE Water


Dr. Paul Bowen, Director, Sustainable Operations, Coca Cola Company

Dr. Giulio Boccaletti, Managing Director, Global Water, Nature Conservancy

Terry Mah
, President, Veolia North America

Bob Bailey
, Executive Vice President City and Urban Solutions, Water Utility Group, CH2M Hill

The Future of Cities and Water

GWC weftec Masthead

Monday, October 7, Chicago, Ill.

In many parts of the world, pressures from population growth, climate change and urbanization are straining existing water systems and resources. Water managers and civil leaders are looking for smarter ways to meet water services needs in ways that will increase resiliency, enhance livability, and conserve resources. Leading cities recognize that conventional urban infrastructure planning needs to change to allow smarter and more sustainable approaches to water management to meet the demands of today and into the future.

As a result, forward thinkers from these great water cities are demonstrating some new opportunities for smarter water management. From green infrastructure to stormwater harvesting to the recovery of resources from wastewater, these new practices show that more innovative approaches are possible. A panel of senior executives, including some from iconic and diverse water cities, shared their experiences and discussed innovative practices for cities looking to adopt smarter approaches to water management.

Welcome and Opening Remarks:

Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago

Gina McCarthy, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

G. Tracy Mehan III, Principal, The Cadmus Group, Inc. Former U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water


Harlan Kelly Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Chew Men Leong, Chief Executive, PUB Singapore

Sue Murphy, CEO, Water Corporation, Perth, Australia

Heiner Markhoff, President & CEO, GE Power & Water Process Technologies