Emerging Leader: James Hake, East Bay Municipal Utility Distrcit

Emerging Leaders, Members in the News

James Hake, Associate Civil Engineer, East Bay Municipal Utility District

When the pandemic hit last year, tours of the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD’s) Main Wastewater Treatment Plant in West Oakland ground to a halt.

James Hake and his team, however, turned that challenge into an opportunity, creating a compelling and colorful virtual tour that covers everything included in the on-site tours, plus more. The one-hour tour is conducted over Zoom and demystifies the world of wastewater through an interactive PowerPoint presentation followed by Q&A.

By the end of 2020, thousands of viewers had tuned in from all over the world—from New Jersey to Australia and Mongolia. Soon after, the program won a national award for public information and education from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Hake explains that the virtual tour has been customized for a variety of audiences ranging from kindergarteners to high school students, graduate students, and professional groups. In addition, the tour has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, and American Sign Language. “The East Bay is extremely diverse, so our approach can’t ever be one-size-fits-all,” he says.

Echoed throughout the virtual tour are themes of environmental stewardship like pollution prevention and beneficial reuse. “We want people to know that wastewater is a valuable resource and that EBMUD is a leader in the industry,” he says.

Hake has five years of experience in the field of water resources both at a utility and as a consultant. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley and a master’s in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. At EBMUD, he is an associate civil engineer on the Wastewater Planning team, focused on a variety of interdisciplinary projects involving strategic planning, communications, project management, and community outreach.

Hake has always wanted his work to be related to the environment. “I remember seeing a cover of National Geographic devoted to climate change when I was younger,” he says.

That image continues to inspire him. On the back of his T-shirt, it says “A clean bay begins with me.”

“We are all stewards of the environment,” he says.