Water Leadership Institute Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Who should apply?
All professionals in the water sector (drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater), whether they be utility staff, consulting engineers or service providers, regulators, academics, admin, or equipment manufacturers are encouraged to apply. The Water Leadership Institute is a program for emerging leaders in the water sector, which may include young professionals, career changers, and veterans, for example. For seasoned utility management professionals looking to move to Executive Management Positions, please see the Water & Wastewater Leadership Center.

Q: When is the application due?
The 2022 application period is now closed and notifications on acceptance will go out in early March.

Please note: If this is your first time applying, you will need to create a new account.

Q: How should I best answer the questions on the application?
A: The steering committee is looking to get to know you.  The best applications are often personal, in first person, and give an insight into who you are as a person. 

Q: What if I'm just starting out and have no leadership experience yet?
A: That is not a problem!  Whether you were officially the leader or not, you've likely had some kind of leadership experience you can share.  This could be in your personal, academic, or professional life.  Let us know what you've done and what you're hoping to learn.

Q: Do I have to be a member of the Water Environment Federation to apply and participate?
 No, you do not have to be a WEF member to apply to the WLI.


Q: Is there a fee for the program?
There is no fee to apply to the program.

If you are accepted, you or your organization will be invoiced $1,195 for the program. This fee includes a full conference registration to WEFTEC 2022 in New Orleans (a $725 value), access to 6 live webcasts (a $240 value), and the two-day workshop in Alexandria (a $400 value).  In addition, it includes monthly group chats, homework assignments, and putting together the final project.  Program participants are responsible for all their own travel and hotel costs, as well as any fees for calling in from a phone.

Q: When will I get the invoice? When do I ned to pay?

A: You will receive an invoice shortly after you confirm your position in the Water Leadership Institute.  This is often early April.  

Once you recieve the invoice, you will have 30 days to pay.  If this timeline is not possible, you must make special arrangements with WEF.

Q: Is there any funding assistance available?
In October 2017, the WEF Board created the George S. Hawkins Scholarship to the WEF Water Leadership Institute. The scholarship will be given annually to one participant in the Water Leadership Institute and highlights George’s commitment to developing future water sector leaders. This scholarship will cover the program’s full tuition.

The WEF Board has approved additional funds which will allow us to offer additional scholarships this year.  These scholarships cover part or all of the tuition cost, and are need based.  Funds will be allocated after the participants have been accepted to the program.  The amount will be deducted from the tuition invoice.  The total amount of funds available in 2021 is a max of 6 full scholarships. 

All scholarships should be applied for via the application to the WLI.


Program Information

Q: How much of a time commitment is the program?
This course runs from April 2022 - October 2022.  There are six live webcasts throughout the months that last 1.5 hours.  In addition, there is a group chat for 30 minutes each month.  The in-person compontent (will be moved to virtual if the pandemic requires it) consists of a 2.5 day workshop in Alexandria May 11-12 with an optional half day event on May 10, and a 1 full day workshop at WEFTEC 2022 in New Orleans, Oct. 9.

In addition, you will have to complete a final group project with deliverables throughout the course.  In recent years, a portion of the final project work has continued after the official end of the program and resulted in articles in the WE&T as well as webcast series with live dates after WEFTEC.

Q: Who will I be learning from?
The curriculum will be delivered by high caliber guest instructors from water and wastewater utilities and companies active in the sector. Guest lecturers from government agencies, communication firms and financial groups will also share their knowledge and experience.

Q: What kind of equipment will I need to participate in the in the monthly web meetings?
The web based meetings will be conducted using Teams and Zoom. You will need a computer with and internet connection for the web meetings. You will need computer speakers to use the Voice over IP audio function. You will also need internet access for readings viewing and online forum participation.

Q: What is the goal of the Water Leadership Institute?
As the water sector faces challenges from aging infrastructure, climate change, financial constraints, and increased demands, professionals who can develop and implement solutions to these issues are needed. The Water Leadership Institute is designed to encourage networking, innovation, entrepreneurship, and professional commitment from those individuals who will be leading the water sector into the coming decades, to preserve and enhance water resources for our current generation, as well as future generations.

Q: Will the WLI 2022 be able to still have the in-person compoents or be completely virtual?
A: The health and safety of everyone is WEF's highest priority.  As of now, we are planning to host the Alexandria Workshop May 11-12 with an optional half day event on May 10, and WEFTEC Workshop (October 9, 2022) in person.  That being said, if we aren't able to meet in person, we will convert the program to be fully virtual.  If we must convert it to being fully virtual, then we will strive to keep the Alexandria Workshop over the same dates.  

In 2020 for the first time, the WLI was completely virtual.  In 2021, the workshop in Alexandria was fully virtual, and plan to host the workshop at WEFTEC in-person this year.  To aid the cohort in getting to know each other better, we added optional networking hours every few weeks, created a getting to know you video series, and utilized breakout rooms for smaller discussions in the webcasts as well as networking hours.

Q: Who should I contact regarding the Water Leadership Institute?
Julianne Jones at [email protected]

"When the WLI20 transitioned to being 100% virtual, I was disappointed. I assumed that we would loose a lot of our opportunities to build relationships amongst our cohort. I was very mistaken! Attending the WLI 100% virtually has actually provide more opportunities to get to know more people."

Garrett Bergey
Director of Field Operations
SDE Inc.
Moretown, VT

"The Water Leadership Institute is an instrumental program for the development of recent grads in the water field. I was able to gain leadership development training, opportunities for networking, and insight into how utilities will change and evolve in the future."

Tina Pham, P.E.
Associate Engineer
City of San Jose Municipal Water District
San Jose, CA

"The Water Leadership Institute provided me with an unprecedented opportunity for personal and professional growth, amongst a group of talented and passionate water professionals from across the continent."

Justin Waples
Assistant Engineer
Central Contra Sanitary District
Martinez, CA

"The Water Leadership Institute was a door and mind opening experience for me.  Hearing from inspirational leaders and hands on learning with peers around how to build teams, communicate with impact, and collaborate on problem solving was a tremendous opportunity.  With these skills and a greater appreciation for our shared water environment I'm energized to continue to learn and grow in the field."

Jen McDonnell
Casella Organics
Portland, ME