Meet CWEA 2021-22 President Arvind Akela, Silicon Valley Clean Water

CWEA's new president is working to build stronger programming and increase membership
By Roni Gehlke, Editor, CWEA Clean Water, Members in the News

Arvind Akeka, Silicon Valley Clean Water CWEA President 2021-22

CWEA recently sat down with Arvind K. Akela to discuss his involvement in CWEA over the past few years and  his goals as the new president of the Association as he works to implement the organization’s updated strategic plan during his term.

Akela comes to CWEA with over 15 years of experience in engineering and project management in both water and wastewater. He currently serves as Director of Engineering and Environmental Services at Silicon Valley Clean Water (SVCW), a wastewater treatment plant located in Redwood City.

As part of a team that oversees wastewater services for 220,000 residents in Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, and the West Bay Sanitary District, Akela has been responsible for implementing an array of wastewater projects but has a keen interest in energy and biosolids for the agency.

He is heavily involved in developing and implementing the agency’s Capital Improvement Projects, primarily working on treatment plant improvements.

How did you come to be involved as a CWEA volunteer?

“In April of 2015, I became involved in the Engineering and Research Committee and served on that committee for six years. In 2016 I received the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers’ (5S) Golden Shoveler award. In 2018 I was asked to be the chair of that year’s CWEA annual conference. To become president of CWEA, you have to first serve on the Board of Directors, become vice president, then president-elect, and finally the position I hold today as president of the Association.

“A lot of people think that volunteer engagement is hard with family and work. I have three kids, ages 6, 10, and 12. Having children shouldn’t be a barrier to give back to society. Actions teach our kids louder than words. Showing them that I am doing something I am passionate about shows them how important giving back is. I want to encourage everyone to make the world a better place and a better environment. Whatever time you can give. CWEA is an organization run by volunteers, and all members are welcome to get involved.”

As president, what are some of the CWEA strategic plan goals you’ll be focusing on?

“As part of my role as Board member and President-Elect, I helped to develop and refresh the strategic plan. It was a chance to take a fresh look at the future and build upon the previous plan. As president, there will be a lot to build on from the mission-developed goals. In the next two to three years, we want to increase membership and break the barrier from around 10,000 members.

“I would like to see more direct contact with members and have a hotline with leaders of the local sections. It is important to build regular conversations with our 17 local sections and reach out and hear from each other. We should be sharing strategies and helping each other where we can. We can build a forum where people can engage with each other, share experiences, and improve their learning.

“During the COVID pandemic, we have shown that we can develop engaging programs and reach our members in many ways. We need to build on this and do more.”

What are your thoughts about the new Online Wastewater Education Network (OWEN)? 

“OWEN offers more content to members, both on-demand and live. CWEA is also developing new content for wastewater certificate seekers or holders. With OWEN delivering this new training program, CWEA is determined to fill the big gap our industry faces in its lack of training opportunities for aspirants who seek certification.”

“Our industry is facing a silver tsunami where we will be losing up to 40 percent of our workforce to retirement. CWEA wants to be the Association where our industry can get the workforce development done. The important goal is to build training programs for all trades within our industry.”

Our certification program has made significant strides to update certification exams and keep them up to date. We are on a six-year cycle to update every certification exam to keep certification practices current, relevant, and up to date. Specifically, in the fiscal year 2021-22, we are updating the Electrical and Instrumentation Technician exam.

“Member experience is everlasting. Not only learning and networking but also knowing people have fun and find a passion in what they are doing.”