The WEF Education Awards recognize WEF members for significant accomplishments in promoting awareness and understanding of water environment issues through the development and execution of academic research, curricula and public education programs

WEF Operator Scholarship 

The WEF Operator Scholarship provides funding for individuals who are seeking water sector operator education, training, or certification to enter the industry or to advance their knowledge, skills, abilities or license.

Operator Scholarship-Amanda Martin Akins.PNG

Amanda Martin Akins
Sparta, GA
Georgia Association of Water Professionals
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover GRWA Water Class III Certification course and associated travel.

Amanda Martin Akins is the Wastewater Superintendent for the City of Sparta, Georgia. She has nearly a decade of experience within the wastewater field and close to two decades in the post-secondary education field. In her current role as Superintendent, she works closely with a variety of organizations and departments to advance the community’s awareness of and the city’s preparedness for critical infrastructure (primarily in water and wastewater). These efforts include operating, repairing, and upgrading the City’s aging system to meet current Clean Water Act guidelines; seeking and obtaining grants for large scale projects to ensure financial stability within a small rural community; training, coordinating, and providing technical support and assistance for City staff; and performing administrative-level tasks to meet EPA and EPD requirements. From her prior water-related job positions, Mrs. Martin Akins has experience in Wastewater Operations and Administration, Laboratory Analysis, Biosolids, Watershed Management, Industrial Pretreatment, Fats Oils and Grease (FOG), and Capacity Management Operations and Maintenance (CMOM). In addition, Mrs. Martin Akins has obtained multiple Associates and Bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Research Marketing, Operational Management, Logistics Management, General Business, and Accounting. She has also her Wastewater Class II License, and Laboratory Analyst License. Additionally, Mrs. Martin Akins plans to obtain her Wastewater Class I License and her Water Class III license within the next few years. Mrs. Martin Akins also has certifications through FEMA and is certified GA Work Ready. Mrs. Martin Akins also assisted her prior municipality in obtaining Program of the Year and QA/QC Awards. Mrs. Martin Akins supports the development of the water and wastewater sector by participating in several water-related organizations. Most recently, she joined the Southeastern F.O.G. Alliance (an organization which focuses on providing education and training for Fats, Oils, and Grease professionals) as Treasurer and Shades of Green (an organization which focuses on ethical, responsible leadership and the creation of a sustainable world) as a member of the Board of Directors. She is also an active member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP), and Georgia Rural Water Association (GRWA). Mrs. Martin Akins also uses her prior experience as a College Reading & Learning Association (CRLA)Certified Master Tutor to assist those within the field by helping trainee-operators learn the necessary skills and knowledge to pass the state examinations, as well as excel at their job duties. When not focusing on her chosen field, Mrs. Martin Akins likes to spend her time assisting others. She has recently partnered with the City of Sparta to implement a Health & Wellness program for employees and their families to encourage healthier lifestyles (mentally and physically). In her downtime, Mrs. Martin Akins assists retired and disabled veterans with completing their Department of Veteran Affairs applications, helps blind or low vision individuals by providing visual assistance, aids her family in running their local businesses, and assists with other 503(C) organizations when times allows. To relax, she enjoys archery, video games, geo-caching, reading, and has recently begun to learn Signing Exact English (SEE) and 3D Printing.  

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often times better than a master of one.” –Robert Greene 

WEF Operator Schlorship_ Eliseo Bonilla.png

Eliseo Bonilla
Ventura, CA
California Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will be used toward an associate degree at Ventura College in Water and Wastewater Science.


Operator Scholarship-William Branton.jpg

William Branton
Cohasset, MA
New England Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will be used to register and attend the 2023 WEF Collection Systems Conference

William Branton is the Superintendent and Chief Operator for the Town of Scituate’s Sewer Division. In his role, Mr. Branton oversees all regulatory functions as well as operations of the Town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and collection system which is comprised of nine pumping stations across town. Mr. Branton is dedicated to developing and implementing new standards for wastewater treatment and operations. On January 22nd 2018 Mr. Branton had the opportunity to present findings on a newly developed treatment system at Scituate’s wastewater facility for the removal of copper from effluent streams. Prior to working for the Town of Scituate Mr. Branton was a fulltime student at UMASS Lowell  


Denton Chas Campbell
San Angelo, TX
Water Environment Association of Texas
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover TCEQ Exams and supporting materials for course work and exams, including a laptop computer.

Funds will also be used to attend the following three Texas A&M Extension classes:

  • Basic Water Works Operation
  • Basic Wastewater Operations
  • Onsite Sewerage Facilities Installer
Operator Scholarship- Jose Gonzalez.jpg

Jose Gonzalez
Loxahatchee, FL
Florida Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will pay for Water Treatment Plant Operations Class C & B Training Courses.

I would like to thank the WEF for accepting me as a recipient of the 2022 Operator Scholarship, and the Town of Jupiter in providing me the opportunity to start a career in water treatment.  

Of the methods used to produce clean and aesthetically pleasing drinking water, the Town of Jupiter utilizes two systems to meet the demands of its residents: Reverse Osmosis, and Nanofiltration. The two methods were initiated a decade prior, replacing traditional lime softening methods. This is due to the increasing presence of seawater found in the aquifers. To produce safe clean drinking water under these conditions, the amount of effort and care involved at the plant is considerable. My experience and knowledge of water treatment in general is limited. But with the help and guidance of the operators at the Town of Jupiter, and utilizing the skills obtained during my fully covered undergraduate study at the University of South Florida, I plan to learn as much as I can about these systems in order to meet the demands of our community and combat this growing issue in the years to come. 

Thank you. 


Operator Scholarship-Evan Hurrle.jpg

Evan Hurrle
Wilson, WY
Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover RMWEA Activated Sludge Course and associated travel.


Derek Jefferson
Siletz, OR
Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover three Oregon Association of Water Utilities Conferences and associated travel:

  • Summer Classic Conference
  • Fall Operators Conference
  • End of Year Conference

In addition, funds will cover the following books/courses/enrollments:

  • Operation of Wastewater Treatment Plants, Volume I
  • Operation and Maintenance of Wastewater Collection Systems, Volume II
  • Collection Systems: Methods for Evaluating and Improving Performance
  • Small Wastewater System Operation and Maintenance, Volume I
  • Utility Management
  • Wastewater Collection Systems Operator Certification Studybook
  • Standard Methods

Once the above conference and courses have been completed, Derek will have enough CEUs to apply for his Grade 3 Operator Certification.

Operator Scholarship-Raudel Juarez.jpg

Raudel Juarez
Midlothian, TX
Water Environment Association of Texas
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover one semester toward a Business Management Bachelor’s degree at Western Governors University.

Raudel Juarez has been a certified wastewater treatment professional for over 20 years, since 1999. He began his wastewater career in southern California working for the Ventura Regional Sanitation District. He was directly responsible for day to day operations of two (2) sequencing batch reactor plants, both below 2 MGD. He has been employed by the Trinity River Authority (TRA) ever since re-locating to Texas in 2005. He currently holds a TCEQ Class “A” Wastewater license and is attending Western Governors University pursuing a Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree with a planned completion in the fall of 2022.  

Early in 2021 Raudel was promoted to the System Operations Manager of the Central Regional Wastewater System (CRWS) project. This facility has a daily average permitted wastewater flow of 189 MGD. This facility uses both biological phosphorous removal and anaerobic digesters utilizing a thermally hydrolyzed (THP) sludge process, which is scheduled to start up in the next few months.  

Raudel joined the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) in 2007.  He has competed or been involved in Operations Challenge alternatively since 2007. He is also an approved instructor with TCEQ for some core wastewater certification classes. In 2010, Raudel received the WEAT-Outstanding Municipal Operator of the Year.  

Awards and Honors: 

WEAT, Outstanding Municipal Operator of the Year – 2010 


Jon Motovio.jpeg

Jonathan Montovio
Woodbridge, VA
Virginia Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds to cover taking the Class 2 and Class 3 Wastewater License as well as the following book/study material:

  • Advanced Waste Treatment Course package
  • Wastewater Collection System Operator Certification Studybook
  • Operation of Nutrient Removal Facilities, MOP 37
  • Activated Sludge and Nutrient Removal
  • Basic Laboratory Procedures for the Operator-Analyst
  • Operation of Extended Aeration Package Plants
  • Wastewater Biology: The Microlife
  • Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals I: Liquid Treatment
  • Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals II: Solids Handling and Support Systems|
    Jonathan Montovio from Montclair, Virginia is currently employed with Prince William County Service Authority.  He started his employment in April of 2018, where he earned his Class 4 Wastewater license in August in 2019 and further completed the company’s Operator Training Program in 2021. As an operator at the H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility, he performs pH and DO analysis on the final effluent. Operate centrifuges that sends sludge that has been dewatered and then sent over to the Fluidizing Bed Incinerator that helps burn sludge and the removes the Ash from the incinerator to our Ash drying basins. Grabs basin samples for the laboratory to run tests on to see how the basins are performing. During the day we take the data from the laboratory and make changes to our waste pumps as well as make changed to our Primary Sludge pumps. Monitor our Ammonia, Nitrate, and Phosphorus levels throughout the day and night.  In addition, he assists Maintenance staff by turning off equipment that might need to be checked or serviced as part of our Preventative Maintenance system. Since being employed with PWCSA, I have assisted with maintaining regulatory compliance with the Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit which PWCSA has received the NACWA Platinum Peak Performance Award for 13 years. In Jonathan’s personal time he enjoys spending time with his family and vacationing at the beach, as well as hunting. 


Operator Scholarship-Katherine Mowbray.jpg

Katherine Mowbray

East Jordon, MI
Michigan Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover the 2023 MWEA Wastewater Administrators Conference and associated travel.

Katherine Mowbray has been a water and wastewater operator for 25 years, operating municipal and industrial systems.  She holds a Michigan A wastewater license along with a F1 and S1 water licenses.  She was responsible for creating a cooperative agreement between her employer, the City of East Jordan, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to raise walleye in one of the decommissioned treatment ponds.  When she is not checking on the baby fish, she can be found snowmobiling in the winter and marching new brides down the aisle in the summer as a professional violist. 


Operator Scholarship-Luis Negrete.JPG

Luis Negrete
Gardena, CA
California Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover a semester at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College in the Water and Wastewater Technology program.

My name is Luis Negrete and I have always loved the environment. I was initially majoring in psychology because I wanted to help people in need but kept on hearing about the environmental troubles we’re facing, especially in Southern California. After doing some more research on the drought and how we as a community can help conserve water, I decided I wanted to go even further and changed my major to Water Supply Technology and Wastewater Technology to help the environment and my community. 

After taking multiple courses on water distribution, water treatment, and wastewater treatment, I knew this was the career I wanted to pursue. I studied for my California State Water Board Exams and passed all my tests. I currently hold a Grade T2 Water Treatment Operator License, Grade D2 Water Distribution Operator License, and passed the Grade II Wastewater Operator Exam.  

While being in school, I began an internship at the City of Huntington Beach in the Water Quality department. I go out in the distribution system and conduct various types of sampling. Once completed, I create chain of custodies to transfer ownership of coliform samples to a different laboratory. I also conduct chlorine residual, general physicals, odor, color, turbidity, fluoride, and nitrification tests.  

My expected graduation date is December of 2022 with two associate degrees, A.S. in Wastewater Technology and A.S. in Water Supply Technology. I am planning to continue my education and get a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. I believe that the future of water is the combination of wastewater and drinking water as a unison, as can be seen in advanced wastewater treatment plants. The laws and regulations of water are sure to change, and I would like to be fully prepared while working as a treatment operator in the future. 


Operator Scholarship-Glenda Perrott.jpg

Glenda Perrott
Cartersville, GA
Georgia Association of Water Professionals
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover the following two classes at the Georgia Water and Wastewater Institute:

  • Backflow prevention Assembly Tester
  • FOG Program and SSO Reporting

Glenda is new to the industry so funds will also be used to cover one year of Professional Operator or Young Professional memberships to GAWP and WEF.


Operator Scholarship-Todd Saums.jpg

Todd Saums
Sylvania, OH
Ohio Water Environment Association
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover one semester at Ohio University for a Master’s in Public Administration.

Todd Saums has been a in the public utility workforce for since 2007. He began at an entry level water and sewer maintenance worker and is now a department manager. He has a strong passion for public service and improving vital services to the public such as water and sewer.  

Todd received a Bachelor of Science from Bowling Green State University in 2017. He then furthered his education with completed a Master of Public Administration from Ohio University in 2022.  

Todd has been an active member in the Ohio Water Environment Association and Operations Challenge participant. His notable career achievement was assisting Grand Bahama Island post Hurricane Dorian. There he assisted with drinking water restoration efforts with the non-profit, Operators Without Borders.  

Todd currently lives in the Toledo Ohio area with his wife and one-year old son. He enjoys being outdoors, particularly camping and boating with his family. 


Operator Scholarship-Jeff Van Andel.jpg

Jeff Van Andel
Etobicoke, ON Water Environment Association of Ontario
Purpose for Scholarship: Funds will cover 50% of SCS Data Analytics Boot Camp at the University of Toronto.

Jeff Van Andel works for Toronto Water as an Analyst, supporting Wastewater Treatment Plants with process analysis, compliance, and regulatory reporting. He started as a Wastewater Operator and holds a Class 4 Treatment License. He looks forward to continuing his career, focusing on plant operations and maintenance where he can continue to contribute to his passion of preserving the water environment. 


Public Communication & Outreach Program Awards  

The WEF Public Education Awards recognize WEF members for significant accomplishments in promoting awareness and understanding of water environment issues among the public, through the development and implementation of public education programs.

  1. Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (Other Category)
  2. Shape Our Water (Other Category)

Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (Other Category)

The Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (the Academy) is a non- profit organization that engages county residents in restoration of local watershed ecosystems by bolstering accessibility of municipal resources/data and training resident stewards to ignite action within their own neighborhoods. Since its inception in 2008, the Academy has trained over 280 Master Watershed Stewards in a hands-on course that gives leaders tools to implement change in their communities. Programs taught and promoted are designed to complement government-led restoration projects with grass- roots community-led efforts that help to bridge the gap between public and private capacity to restore the county's waterways. Projects include efforts to restore the native tree canopy across the county, inspire and implement small-to medium-scale, local restoration of natural stormwater mitigation measures such as water gardens and naturally vegetated swales, and foster grassroots involvement and ownership of stormwater controls, all with the aim of achieving cleaner waterways. Organizational efforts include methods for measuring the positive effects of community projects for meaningful positive feedback to the estimated 100,000 diverse local community participants.

The WSA strategy involves outreach to diverse sectors of the community with target audiences including families, faith communities, community associations, businesses, and schools. The concept of fostering community ownership of watershed issues by training local stewards to carry the message and lead local community groups to perform meaningful change within their neighborhoods is one that has been effective in Anne Arundel County, and the group hopes to share its successful concepts with other areas of the Chesapeake region.

Shape Our Water (Other Category)

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) provides essential drinking water, drainage and wastewater, and solid waste services to more than 1.5 million people in the greater Seattle area. About 1,400 SPU employees work with our community to provide affordable and equitable stewardship of our water and waste resources for future generations. Everyone in Seattle relies on a vast, mostly invisible stormwater and wastewater systems that SPU manages, and that help keep our waterways clean and prevent our streets from flooding.  

SPU is embarking on a different way to plan our future stormwater and wastewater investments. Shape Our Water is a 50-year plan for Seattle’s water resilience aimed at identifying equitable, multi-benefit infrastructure investments to address Seattle’s complex and changing challenges. We recognize our communities are the best skilled to help us look beyond pipes and pumps to see our investment’s broader role in people’s lives, like safer neighborhoods and beautiful public spaces. From 2019 – 2021, Shape Our Water utilized thoughtful and pandemic-responsive engagement to create a shared vision for our infrastructure investment with our communities. Our engagement strategies created space for community partners to share their enthusiasm, knowledge, lived experience, talent, and inspiration. Insights gained through this engagement process were distilled into the Community Vision for Shape Our Water, which was completed in 2021 and will guide Seattle’s future drainage and wastewater investments and help transform our city.  

Leslie Webster is the Planning Manager at Seattle Public Utilities where she leads a team of 10 long-range planners for the drainage and wastewater line-of-business. While one of the primary initiatives of the team is Shape Our Water, the team is also responsible for focus area planning, green infrastructure planning, combined sewer overflow (CSO) reduction planning, and facility planning for SPU. Prior to working at SPU, Leslie worked at San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and as a landscape architect in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a licensed landscape architect and holds master’s degrees in both Landscape Architecture and City & Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. She was raised on an island in the Salish Sea.  


Student Chapter of the Year Award

Student Chapter of the Year Award recognizes one WEF Student Chapter for exemplary effort in helping WEF in building a community of empowered professionals who create a healthy global water environment.

University of Alabama (Young Water Professionals)
Founded in 2020 at the University of Alabama, Young Water Professionals is a joint student chapter of the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation. Young Water Professionals serves to introduce university students to the wide variety of career paths in the fields of water and wastewater. Guest speakers at meetings have included consultants, professors, municipal engineers, state compliance officers, and more. The group has also organized field trips to local water and wastewater treatment facilities for its members. With the support of the local chapter of WEF, the Alabama Water Environment Association, Young Water Professionals has also sent members to local and national conferences such as the Alabama-Mississippi Water Jam conference and the AWWA-WEF Young Professional Summit. The Young Water Professionals of the University of Alabama are honored to accept the award for the 2022 WEF Student Chapter of the Year. 

Melanie Vines graduated from the University of Alabama with her B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Engineering in 2020 and is now a third year Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama. She founded Young Water Professionals in 2020 with support from local WEF leadership and has since served in the roles of President and Vice President of the organization. In her free time, Melanie enjoys hiking, reading, and playing with her dog Madi. She is honored to accept this award on behalf of the Young Water Professionals of the University of Alabama. 


WEF Canham Graduate Studies Scholarship  

WEF Canham Graduate Studies Scholarship provides $25,000 for a post-baccalaureate student in the water environment field. The scholarship is for education related expenses. 

WEF Canham Graduate Studies Scholarship-Duong_Nguyen.png

Duong Nguyen is on his third year of PhD studies working with Dr. Anthony Straub in Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at University of Colorado Boulder. He earned a MS degree in Environmental Engineering from Arizona State University and a BS degree in Environmental Science from Vietnam National University Hanoi.  

His research focuses on innovative membrane materials and processes for desalination, water reuse, resource recovery, and heat transfer, specifically novel hydrophobic porous membranes with high selectivity of all dissolved contaminants and strong oxidation resistance. Under high hydraulic pressures, the air gaps inside the membranes act as separation barriers allowing solely gas-phase constituents to pass through and rejecting non-volatile solutes. The novel reverse osmosis membranes he made can reject >95% harmful contaminants such as boron, N-nitrodimethylamine, and urea while showing unaffected performance after extensive cleaning with chlorine and ozone oxidants. Using these membranes, desalination and water reuse facilities cane eliminate pre-treatment by microfiltration for fouling mitigation and post-treatment by advanced oxidation or ion exchange for removal of small neutral contaminants, reducing system footprint and saving a third of cost and energy consumption for water purification.  

His career goal is becoming a professor and a science communicator to help people access low-cost safe drinking water via novel effective membrane technologies, especially poor and marginalized populations in developing countries around the world.