Survey Finds Ageing Infrastructure and Succession Planning Major Challenges for the Profession

Emerging Leaders

In preparation for CWEA’s Annual Conference 2018 next April in Sacramento our Educational Program Team completed an annual survey of members and executives from several wastewater agencies. We’re looking for the profession’s most important challenge areas so we can develop sessions at Annual Conference to help our members address them.

If you have an idea for an AC18 presentation, please apply soon. The call for speaker proposals closes on September 22nd.

Here are the top challenge areas ranked by how often members and water leaders mentioned them…

  1. Operations and maintenance of ageing infrastructure
  2. Water reuse technologies
  3. Succession planning as more professionals retire
  4. Biosolids management
  5. Building soft skills in communication and leadership
  6. Building useful systems for asset management
  7. Maintaining collection systems under tighter regulations as we go from droughts to floods
  8. New Environmental Laboratory Accreditation regulations
  9. Worker safety
  10. General increase in number of new regulations
  11. Managing and removing nutrients from wastewater

Here are the key challenges and specific topics members and leaders mentioned during our interviews…

Biosolids are Hot

The results were surprising in that co-digestion and biosolids seem to be on everyones’ mind. It could be the excitement about turning wastewater facilities into green energy producing resource recovery facilities by receiving more food waste, FOG and organic wastes. Or the excitement could be related to the increasing State regulations that will one day soon bar food waste from going to California landfills. So where will all that food waste go?  Lucky for us wastewater facilities can accept about 75% of all of California’s food waste with our spare digester capacity according to a CASA study.

The interest in biosolids could also be driven by the upcoming ban on biosolids sent to landfills for alternative daily cover. This means  tons of biosolids will be soon be looking for a new home each and every day.

So watch for biosoldis and co-digesiton as key topics at AC18.

For Leaders, Succession Planning is a Bigger Challenge

At this year’s Annual Conference in Palm Springs we held several popular sessions about preparing for the upcoming “Silver Tsunami” as 30-50% of the water workforce retires over the next few years.

For the 12 agency leaders we interviewed this year succession planning/retirements was their number one challenge area.

Leaders mentioned issues such as “preparing for an ageing workforce”; ” understanding the generations”; and “operations supervisor retirements & relatively inexperienced replacements.”

The AC18 Education Program Team (EPT) is looking at ways to address the looming workforce shortage.

So stay tuned. CWEA’s EPT group and our Technical Committees are quickly working on a fantastic program for Annual Conference 2018.

See you in Sacramento!