19 Nov 2009

Why should I be an AWWA member?

I joined the American Water Works Association to participate in the water community.

The "benefits of membership" have been disappointing to me:
  • Although I have spoken at a few AWWA conferences, I find them to be directed at selling pumps and water treatment devices, not at improving water management.*
  • Their webcasts are also more about money than spreading information.
  • I applied to serve on the water rates committee, but they never responded (let alone said yes or no).
  • I wanted to share articles from the AWWA, but they told me to take them down. With one exception, the AWWA is the only organization more concerned with protecting information than sharing it.
A heavy driver of AWWA's structure and "behavior" is its revenue model -- for most AWWA members, annual fees, conference fees, webcast fees, etc. mean nothing because they are paid by their employers customers, which gives them little reason to be picky about costs and benefits.**

Bottom Line: An organization's institutions say a lot about its priorities, customers, etc. The AWWA still appears to represent traditional water management (build stuff!) -- neither innovation nor the concerns of water customers. Oh well, I tried.
* Note that I do not have to be a member to give a talk...
** There's a principal-agent-beneficiary model to discuss!


  1. AMEN brother. I gave it up almost 20 years ago and they are less than 3 miles from me, physically. About a light year from me in every other way.

  2. Do you ever get the feeling that, sometimes, an organization like this has been created for the sole purpose of scamming just you?

  3. I work in the engineering division of a large municipal water and sanitary sewer collection agency on the east coast.

    From the perspective of the technical aspects of the design, operation and maintenance of utility systems I think the AWWA is a quite valuable organization. The AWWA Research Foundation (recently renamed to Water Research Foundation and which is a group somewhat separate from the AWWA) in particular is a very valuable operation in doing well...technical research and disseminating info to member agencies.

    Our annual membership fees to AWWA and the Water Research Foundation are in the tens of thousands of dollars and the consensus among our engineering staff is that it is a worthwile expenditure.

    From the business side of things it may be that the AWWA is not quite as forceful an organization. But realistically, how can they be?

    The whole issue of water rates is so tied up in local and regional politics (certainly a Californian would understand that!)that I don't think any primarily technically oriented organization will have much clout or impact.

  4. @Ger -- I agree. AWWA is good for engineers. Whether THAT's good for water management (are engineers too powerful, do they understand scarcity?) is a different question. Given what I've seen (and NOT seen), I'd say NO.


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