Advice From Three CWEA Life Members


Member Value Report 

This year CWEA is celebrating 90 years. In those years many things have changed, but many things have remained the same. One of the stalwarts of CWEA is the diversity of its membership, and the willingness of those members to share their knowledge with others. 

Three CWEA life members, all former Presidents of the association, share their insights on the value of  membership in CWEA and WEF, as well as reflecting on the changes that have come about in the past 90 years, and their advice for those wishing to succeed in this industry. 

Life members are individuals who have been a member of CWEA for 35 or more consecutive years, and are age 65 or older.  

Fran Forkas
CWEA Life Member
CWEA President 1989
WEF Director – 1991-1994
Previous: City of Lodi, Water/Wastewater Superintendent 1974-2003 (retired)
Current: FEF Consulting 

Fran Forkas -Photo Credit-Jennifer M. Howell, Lodi News-Sentinel

Fran Forkas got his start as a Water Professional in the military, serving four years at March Air Force Base as a water and waste specialist. He joined CWEA in 1969 while working at the City of Corona. “I saw CWEA as an organization that had their finger on the pulse of clean water. I needed to be a part of that and started going to the annual conventions.” 

Fran started with the City of Lodi in 1974, and was promoted to water/wastewater superintendent three  years later. He retired from Lodi in 2003, but still remains active in the industry through his consulting  company, FEF International. 

In the mid 1980s, Fran was attending a CWEA board meeting, left the room briefly, and returned to the  room only to be introduced by then president Ron Young as the new treasurer for the association. “Never leave the room when elections are being held,” he advises. 

“At that time CWPCA was running in the red” Fran recalls, “so we undertook a few measures and tightened our belts, and by the end of my two year term we were back in the black. Then I was elected as Vice President.” Fran was elected president of CWEA in 1989, and in 1991 was elected as a director and served a three year term on the national association, WEF. 

In his position as superintendent at Lodi, Fran was able to include CWEA membership fees and registration costs for local section conferences and the CWEA annual conference into his budget for his department. 

“Each year I would attend the conferences, learn some new things — great money saving ideas — and I would come back and share those with my employer. And often times they would initiate the ideas, resulting in them saving money. As a result that would allow me and some of my fellow employees to go to future conferences. It was a win/win for me and the agency I was working for.” 

“This was especially true with Lodi. We would go to those conferences, get some great ideas, come back and implement them and save the money. But of course I would also flaunt that money saving idea so that it secured myself and my fellow employees future involvement and future conferences. We had pretty good numbers from Lodi that were not only members of the local section, but also the state organization.” 

Fran views the Clean Water Act (CWA, amended in 1972), as the greatest innovation in water treatment in CWEA’s 90 year history.  

“When California jumped on the bandwagon of the Federal Clean Water Act, that’s when the level of treatment increased for facilities throughout the state. I saw it as a great measure for California to get on top of the Clean Water Bill and kind of ride the wave into the future. I think it was one of the greatest moments in California.” 

With the passage of the CWA, agencies and municipalities over a certain MGD level were mandated to provide secondary treatment. Previously many treatment facilities only provided primary treatment. “Many of them are now into tertiary treatment,” Fran says. “In Lodi, effluent from tertiary treatment goes to steam generators, which produce electricity. We also supply water for local mosquito abatement district for fish rearing ponds. The fish are put into areas where there are known mosquito problems. The fish eat the mosquito larvae and eliminate the mosquitoes.” 

Fran’s recommendations for those who wants to succeed as a Water Professional are to join CWEA and other professional organizations, and to be involved in both the local sections and the annual conferences.  

“CWEA is the premier leader of the wastewater industry in California, as WEF is the premier leader in the world for wastewater treatment. So it’s important first to get into the local section, get involved and participate. They have some great programs that are offered by all of the local sections. Then take the next step up, become a member of CWEA, and attend the conferences, including regional conferences, the safety conferences, and of course the state annual conference. They all have tremendous banks of knowledge which are willing to be shared.”  

“My membership in CWEA has paid off for me in many numerous ways, both professionally and politically, through being an officer at both the state level and with the national organization. It was money well spent.” 

Harry Tow
CWEA Life Member
CWEA President 1975
WEF President 1984
Previous: City of Visalia City Manager, 1958 – 1972
Current: Consultant at QK Inc., 

Harry Tow

Harry Tow joined CWEA when he was City Manager with the City of Visalia, where he started in 1958. “I was city manager at the time, had been a wastewater treatment plant designer, and worked as a glorified operator, working as shift superintendent, so it was an opportunity to continue to meet and converse with people who were in the same profession or had the same professional background.” 

In 1972 Harry entered private consulting practice and is still working with QK Inc. (formerly Quad Knopf, Inc.). “Maintaining contact with the profession and with what’s going on through CWEA are both helpful and essential.”  

Harry became CWEA President in 1975, and was WEF President in 1984. Both of these positions gave him the opportunity to meet with members of both associations by attending conferences or traveling to visit the various member associations. “It was interesting and certainly professionally very rewarding to be able to talk with the various associations up and down the state. The two experiences were useful to converse with, and learn from, people throughout the state and throughout the country.” 

In Harry’s opinion, the greatest breakthrough in water treatment since CWEA’s inception 90 years ago is not a single technological breakthrough, but rather in the increasing professionalism of the people in the water industry through the years. 

“The professionalism of everyone in the water industry, not just the engineers, but the operations people, maintenance people, the laboratory people. That has been, I think, a most significant development, and one which CWEA has greatly assisted through their training programs and through their work with the state in terms of certifying people. The association has been exceedingly valuable in that regard.” 

He feels this is a more significant advance than all the other technology changes he’s witnessed in treatment process or physical process changes. 

“The people process of professionalizing the entire group of people that work in the industry has been significant, and the CWEA has been a major factor in that.”  

Harry’s advice to anyone wanting to succeed as a water professional is two part: “Get all the education you can, and stay involved in the professional societies, including CWEA.”  

Harry also expresses his appreciation to the CWEA for all their courtesies extended to him over the years. 

Roger Dolan
CWEA Life Member
CWEA President 1977
WEF President 1991
Previous: Manager, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) 1969-1977
General Manager/Chief Engineer, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District 1977-1999
DES Consulting – 2002-2012
Current: Retired 

Roger Dolan

Roger Dolan joined CWEA in 1971, while working for the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).  “I had developed a friendship with one of the managers at East Bay MUD. Glenn strongly encouraged  me to join.” Glenn Davis had been very active in, and regularly attended and contributed to the organization. 

“We had already developed a rudimentary section configuration of the organization by the time I joined. I joined the San Fransisco Bay section. There was a three year stint where you became Vice President, President Elect, President, and then the following year I began going through the chairs of the state association.” Roger became CWEA President in 1977. 

In the 1980s Roger became more active at the national level of the organization, and became WEF President in 1991. 

“I enjoyed every minute, really. The friendships, the fellowship, the camaraderie are such an important part of a successful volunteer activity. During the time I was active in the Bay section I hardly missed a meeting in several years, and was active in committees and coordinating committees.” 

Particularly rewarding was setting up specialty committees. “In the water and wastewater utilities field there are people from many different disciplines: laboratory, engineering, operations, maintenance, mechanical, and administrative. There was already a specialty committee for collection systems maintenance where they could share information and learn from each other.” 

Roger was chief chemist when he first started at EBMUD, and he saw an opportunity for more speciality committees, including one for chemists. “The day in and day out work that they do, the instruments that they use, are distinctly different from everybody else’s, so I asked a few of the active chemists to form a committee. It sort of took off from there.” 

Having specialty committees heightened the level of involvement in CWEA by its volunteers, and led to retaining more volunteers from year to year. “If you look at the distinction between people who drop out and people who don’t, it has nothing to do with skill or suitability. It’s whether or not something reaches out and grabs them, that they can actually take hold of and they can become involved.” 

For innovation and changes in water treatment in the 90 years of CWEA’s existence, Roger cites the importance of the work of Professor David Jenkins at the University of California – Berkeley, and other researchers around the state, “in turning secondary activated sludge treatment from an art into a science”. 

“The work that Dave and his colleagues did to identify operating criteria and taking it right down to the quantification of characteristics scientifically, that can be used by operators, is of great importance in making the deactivated sludge process a controllable process. Dave and his colleagues educated many budding engineers in the science of AS (activated sludge) to the benefit of countless lakes and rivers.” 

Another significant change took place when the national organization changed its name from Water Pollution Control Federation (WPCF) to Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the corresponding eventual change from California Water Pollution Control Association (CWPCA) to California Water Environment Association (CWEA). 

“The embodiment of the concept of environmental protection as our basic mission, as opposed to pollution control, which really meant needing some kind of regulation, was a milestone in our way of thinking. The concept of being the California Water Environment Association is much more powerful and more influential to people outside the profession.” 

“It was a huge thing both to enhance the internal culture of our organization and our external ability to communicate to outsiders.” 

Roger’s advice to anyone who wants to succeed as a water professional is to join CWEA and actively participate in both the local section and the state association, as well as any specialty committees. “Build relationships. Get to be the person who has the answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Often problems continue to exist in little pockets, not because of a failure of imagination, but of a failure of leadership. People know what ought to be done.” 

“People who haven’t got to the point where they are supervisors or management on the job can learn those skills in a volunteer organization. They can take on committee leadership and begin to understand that one of the fundamental facts of life is that to a good leader, ALL work is voluntary. If you learn to be a good leader with volunteers, you’re going to be a terrific leader on the job, because you will know that the way to get that job done right is to make people want to do it.”  

“There is no better organization to build relationships and to develop your leadership skills than CWEA.”