The New Jersey One Water Awards honor projects that demonstrate great water management. Winners illustrate the One Water ideal by valuing and making use of all water, whether it’s drinking water, stormwater, or wastewater. The awards program is sponsored by five organizations: American Water Resources Association’s New Jersey section, American Water Works Association’s New Jersey section, Association of Environmental Authorities, Jersey Water Works, and New Jersey Water Environment Association. Read about the winners announced for the 3rd annual New Jersey One Water Awards.
Western Monmouth Utilities Authority is planning for the future, following its vision “to be a world-class public authority committed to leadership in environmental excellence.” Recently, the authority realized a problem that reflects a trend across the country: the water workforce is retiring. As our water infrastructure continues to age, water utilities are working to ensure that the extensive knowledge and skills of their longtime employees don’t retire with them.
Looking inward, the WMUA understood it had to invest more strategically in its current employees to sustain an innovative water management workforce. The authority began working with the Association of Environmental Authorities to develop a training program designed to educate newly appointed or anticipated supervisors within the water and wastewater industry. Called the Environmental Professional Development Academy, this program trains staff on every facet of supervising a staff within authorities. Each track of the academy focused on certifying employees based on four different aspects of the supervisor role: Finance, Human Resources, Administration, and Operations. After completing all four tracks of the program, participants receive a certificate in environmental professional development. The academy was tested with a two-year pilot program, achieving immediate success. The academy grew so rapidly that applicants had to be waitlisted. By the end of the pilot program, WMUA had certified 45% of its own staff, along with 24 employees from neighboring authorities that participated in the pilot program.
The academy is now in its fourth year, and nearly all new WMUA supervisors have been certified. The majority of the program is made up of supervisors from neighboring authorities, including Passaic Valley Regional Sewer Authority, Evesham Municipal Utilities Authority, Rockaway Valley Regional Sewerage Authority, and Ocean County Utilities Authority. WMUA will continue to promote the academy to other utilities authorities in the area.
Creating a talent pipeline also means investing in younger generations. Brian Valentino, chief executive officer of Western Monmouth Utilities Authority (WMUA), knows that the key to getting young people involved in the water sector starts with having a strong public presence and serving as an anchor in the community. WMUA began strengthening its presence in the community by establishing shared service agreements with the Townships of Marlboro and Manalapan, as well as Monmouth County. The Boy Scouts of America’s Monmouth Council partnered with the WMUA to mentor and educate kids on leadership skills and help them explore opportunities in the water sector. Through this partnership,
WMUA sponsored the Environmental STEM Explorers Post 1972 for young adults ages 11-21 who share an interest in the environment. New members join the program monthly, making community members more aware of the authority’s daily accomplishments in their towns.
Investing in water means investing in the individuals who manage it. Western Monmouth Utilities Authority is working to ensure that the water workforce continues to develop strong leaders who value water as a precious resource and know how to manage it effectively, efficiently, and sustainably.
Project Partners: Township of Marlboro; Township of Manalapan; Monmouth County; Association of Environmental Authorities; Boy Scouts of America, Monmouth Council