Jersey Water Works is a collaborative: many people with many perspectives coming together around a central goal of improving our state’s water infrastructure for all New Jerseyans. It was especially fitting that over 100 Jersey Water Works members attended the collaborative’s fourth annual membership meeting in Camden, NJ — a city that embodies the same philosophy of bringing together different people to make the city a place for everyone.
The members of the collaborative gathered at the new headquarters of American Water on the banks of the Delaware River to catch up with colleagues, learn new skills, hear about new initiatives in the water world, and, as always, work together on projects that will advance the goal of upgrading our water infrastructure.
Effectively communicating about water is an integral part of the work that all members of the collaborative do. Unfortunately, many of us get bogged down in jargon and technical terms when trying to describe the obstacles facing New Jersey’s water systems. To help make all members of the collaborative more adept at speaking about water, Jon Shure from Taft Communications gave a workshop on how to use the “Why Before What” message platform when speaking on the topic. Members were given an opportunity to practice some of their messaging strategy and were given a cheat sheet on how to use the platform when talking about their water work, the Jersey Water Works collaborative, or any other topic!
After picking up those new tips and tricks, members were able to hear from Dominique Lueckenhoff about some of the new funding mechanisms that exist to help address many of the problems plaguing our water systems, and ways to implement them. “We have to be smarter and make that commitment to ourselves. We have to do more and think about what we’re leaving our kids.” Former head of EPA Region 3 and the current Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for the Hugo Neu Corporation, Dominique was able to share her vast wealth of knowledge and experience with the collaborative, and we look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
Bringing the focus back to Camden and its incredible history of collaboration, Luis Oilvieri shared the story of Hopeworks, a local nonprofit training and placing Camden youth in tech jobs. One of the important placement opportunities for Hopeworks graduates is within the water sector, doing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) work for utilities like American Water.
After such a packed learning session, it was time for the membership to get to work. Each of the four Jersey Water Works committees – education and outreach; asset management and finance; green infrastructure; and combined sewer overflows (CSO) – met to advance their workplan items for the year. With December and the announcement of their accomplishments fast approaching, they were eager to discuss their projects and the next steps to see them completed.