By Maria Claudia Reed, PNCWA and Brown and Caldwell

My third WEFTEC recently passed, and I learned many lessons from my experiences at the 91st WEFTEC in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I remember my first conference just two years ago being a bit overwhelming as a young professional (YP) and WEFTEC first timer. However, my involvement with WEF has since become paramount for my professional life. WEF is like that magical universe where water, sustainability, and environment meet with innovation, science, and technology, together catalyzed by the love, passion, and responsibility that its members feel for this industry. In this milieu, my sense of belonging for what I do every day has found its reason to be, and today as a water professional, it motivates me to give the best of myself to this field. This community welcomes you, embraces you, supports you and guides you. Unlike what many in our field might think, to help in WEF and your local member association, all you need do is raise your hand.

My involvement has grown over the past 2 years and although still intricate, navigating the conference has become easier and more productive. Some of the different activities I participated in at this year's conference are:

  • The SYPC Community Service Project: This is an event held in conjunction with WEFTEC on the Saturday before the technical conference starts. This year’s project took place at the Treme Community Recreation Center. The Treme Community Center suffered from poor drainage and flooding due to runoff from its sloped roof flowing into an existing planter box. To alleviate most of this flooding, the volunteers constructed a bioswale to capture and detain the stormwater runoff. Additionally, volunteers installed a mural to educate the community on water and the importance of its management, as well as portraying fun facts about the neighborhood. The project looked to not only leave a positive impact on the environment, but also provide community education on water, the environment, and green infrastructure. Personally, it has been an honor to serve as the 2018 Vice-Chair and undoubtedly one of the most rewarding experiences during the entire conference.

  • Jammin 4 Water: J4W is a charity event that supports water-related projects through proceeds generated from ticket sales. “It centers in bringing industry leaders together to share in a selfless evening of music and friendship.”  This year’s event took place at the Carver Theater, and it hosted more than 1,000 early WEFTEC conference attendees. This year’s donation was over $80,000 which supports different water charities like Surge for Water, Global H2O, Engineers Without Border, among others. Performing at J4W, beyond the honor that comes with it, made for the most fun event!

  • Student Design Competition (SDC)/ Process Design Challenge: The SDC promotes real-world design experience for students interested in pursuing education and careers in water and wastewater engineering and science. This year, a record number of teams from 22 schools representing 20-member associations and 3 countries participated in the 17th annual Student Design Competition at WEFTEC. Additionally, I organized and moderated the Student Process Challenge, which began at WEFTEC 2016 and offers an opportunity for both graduate and undergraduate students to test their knowledge of wastewater treatment processes.  Since teams are made up of students from different schools and not a “single-school team”, this activity comes with a new challenge for students to work with people they do not know with varying levels of skills and knowledge.  

  • Student and Young Professional Committee Meeting: Every year at WEFTEC, the S&YP Committee hosts its annual committee meeting. This is one of the very few opportunities to gather members, not only from the United States but other WEF S&YP Committees from different parts of the world in one room. This year, I had the honor of speaking directly to the students and sharing with them my journey from student to young professional.

  • Wastewater 101 Mobile Session: During the Spring of 2018, the WEF Young Professionals Midyear Springboard Program offered the opportunity to become more involved in WEF's technical committees. At the Midyear Meeting, YPs can join committee working sessions, develop and review programs, and help develop programming for WEFTEC. This year, I was able to develop and moderate my first mobile technical session. This session was designed to engage public officials, young professionals, students, and people new to the industry with an introduction to wastewater treatment processes and hot-topics.

  • Technical session- 510 UV Disinfection: Another great opportunity from the Midyear Meeting was helping with a higher-level technical session. I had the opportunity to be an assistant moderator for the UV disinfection session. This was an invaluable opportunity to enrich my knowledge on this specific treatment process since I have not yet had the opportunity to work on a similar project.

Because of the nature of my personality, I tend to romanticize what I do - If I do it, it's because I love it. However, attending WEFTEC is not always so easy, and certainly volunteering is not free. This past year was no exception. My vigorous involvement with WEF has put me in a place where I have the privilege of collaborating with other young colleagues, contributing to this industry, and finding support among this same industry. I personally would like to thank the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association and Brown and Caldwell for their support and the honor to represent both organizations at WEFTEC.

Until next Fall. Exitos!

Community Service Project Volunteers (CSWEA and PNCWA)

Treme Community Center Mural Instruction

YPs at Jammin4'Water

YPs Attending WEFTEC Receptions

About YP Connections

YP Connections offers information on career development; provides tools, tips, and resources; and includes news from WEF and MA young professionals committees.

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