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Director's Report: Expanding Our Reach in 2017

We were blessed with unseasonably pleasant weather for the annual Conference in Kearney this fall. As I write this column, the weather has shifted and winter appears to be here. As we approach the New Year, it is a good time to reflect upon the past year and to consider the opportunities that we will have during the next year.

The Nebraska Section held another successful annual conference under the leadership of Chad Roberts, who is the Section Chair for the upcoming year. At the conference, I had the pleasure of getting to know our visiting AWWA dignitary, Kevin Bergschnieder, who is a Vice President from the Rocky Mountain Section. Kevin shared many useful ideas with our officers, including ideas related to recruiting new members. On the note of membership, our section continues to be stable at about 355 members, and the national membership has increased to almost 50,800.

The national AWWA organization has obtained U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants to assist sections with training opportunities. As part of the 2015-2016 grant program, AWWA at the national level collaborated with local AWWA sections to deliver 96 workshops, eLearning course hosting/marketing, and webinar marketing. Under the leadership of John Keith, the Nebraska Section has taken advantage of grant funds to provide training sessions for small systems.

Nationally, the One AWWA Operator Scholarship is now being offered by 30 sections, including the Nebraska Section. This scholarship is available to any operator to use for a wide range of training opportunities, including college coursework, books, and conferences. The scholarship was first offered this past fall, but no applications were received. I strongly encourage anyone interested in the any form of education to enhance his/her skills to contact Craig Reinsch, the Nebraska Section scholarship chair, to discuss the possibility of applying for the scholarship.

I want to end this column to highlight a new program, the Community Engineering Corps, being developed by an alliance of AWWA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders - USA. The alliance combines the strengths of three organizations to provide technical expertise to under-served communities in the United States and ensure that their infrastructure meets their community's needs. Projects may require civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers, in addition to hydrogeologists, environmental scientists, and operators. Several AWWA sections have ongoing Community Engineering Corps projects, including ones started in recent months in Alaska, Ohio, and California. The Nebraska Section formed a Community Engineering Corps committee during the business meeting at the Annual Conference.

The Nebraska Section's Community Engineering Corps is now starting the process of identifying the most appropriate projects. These will be for small, high-need communities. One line of discussion was to aim to assist communities that do not have an administrative order for a drinking water problem, but are observing a trend in water quality that may lead to an administrative order. These projects could be aimed at helping these communities identify possible solutions and educate them in how to obtain funds to hire professionals to provide design services. Anyone interested in learning more about the Community Engineering Corps or in suggesting appropriate projects or communities, please free to contact me.