SEATTLE, Was. – The National Rural Water Association opened its 2014 WaterPro Conference during a ceremony on Monday, Oct. 6th in Seattle, Wash. Over 2,000 water and wastewater professionals from across the nation assembled for the open of the three-day conference.
Speeches this year focused on the beginning of rural water, the effort it takes to build an association, and the people that give associations their power.
“People working together for a common object have a tremendous amount of power,” said NRWA President Doug Anderton.
Anderton, NRWA’s director from Georgia, highlighted National Rural Water’s success in obtaining $40 million for its technical assistance programs, growing state associations, and changing EPA regulations. The association started from eight state associations in 1976 has grown to include associations in every state.
“NRWA now touches every congressional district in the United States,” Anderton said.
The association has grown because of the work of men who built water systems and associations where there was none before. Jim Dunlap in New Mexico, as part of a group of teachers and FFA students, started a water system to serve rural San Juan County. Until that time, the communities were served by shallow wells that were often contaminated by minerals and oil. Elroy Larimore helped start a water system in Horse Cave, Ken., motivated to supply clean water to the community after watching his mother wash clothes in a pond. These men, and many others not mentioned, went on to help establish the state rural water associations that make up the backbone of National Rural Water.
Other pioneers included R.K. Johnson of Oklahoma and Joe Palmer of Georgia. Clark Cronquist of North Dakota was instrumental in revising laws so that utilities would be able to repurchase their own loans, a change that has saved small utilities over a billion dollars.
The 2014 WaterPro Conference marks Sam Wade’s first year as the NRWA CEO. His remarks focused on his own beginnings in the water industry and a way of looking into the future.
“I was desperate for a job,” he said.
He looked for work for several days, before a gas station attendant told him of an opening in city maintenance. After meeting with the town council in the local café, despite having limited qualifications, he got his first job working in water.
“Systems of today are much different than in those days,” Wade said. “I couldn’t get a job today with so few qualifications. And the systems of tomorrow will be much different than those of today.”
Those changes have been important to improving the health and the economic strength of rural American and the nation as a whole.
“What’s good for rural water is good for rural America, and what’s good for rural America is good for our entire nation,” Wade said.
The opening session began with an invocation from Steve Wear, NRWA director from Arkansas. Nick Jackson, circuit rider and member of the South Dakota National Guard, posted the colors for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem.
Lance Hoyt, NRWA director from Washington, welcomed guests to Seattle for the Conference.
The conference will run through Oct. 8 and include an exhibit hall and over 30 hours of educational sessions.