Clean Water Advocate

President's Message

By Oluwole "OJ" McFoy | Buffalo Sewer Authority

It is hard to believe that I am already more than halfway through my year as NACWA President. I can honestly say that time is flying, especially when there is so much important work that has been and still needs to be done!


As I write this message, NACWA’s members are preparing to gather for the Winter Conference in Austin, Texas under the banner of “Claiming the High Ground” – a theme which has been at the heart of my year as President.

So, what exactly do we in the water sector mean when we say we must “Claim the High Ground”?

We have accomplished so much, right? We have improved water quality for more than 50 years under the Clean Water Act. We have resurrected our waterfront areas and helped create booming urban economies. We kept people safe during a pandemic. We have been undergoing a technological and digital transformation that includes wastewater surveillance that can forecast disease outbreaks and protect public health.  We have finally been deemed an “essential service sector” by the federal government recognizing our public service and public health roles; and we have received more federal funding as a sector than we have seen in decades demonstrating the growing importance of the work we do.

This is a record most should be envious of, right? Perhaps. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The risks to our sector are starker now than ever. Powerful interests are blaming water and wastewater utilities for PFAS and seeking to stick our customers with the bill. Serious challenges in some places such as Flint and Jackson create reputational risk for the public water sector at large. The long-term sustainability of the current water and sewer rate structure is in question in more and more communities. And the federal funding that was supposed to provide some relief is under threat as annual funding for the federal loan program (the State Revolving Funds) are being replaced with earmarks and the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) has yet to receive permanent funding.

So, to put it bluntly, the gains we have made are at risk.  And all of us need to tell our story and "Claim the High Ground" that we have all worked so hard to earn. If we are to have long-term success as a sector, we must demand the respect we deserve from our policymakers, elected and appointed officials, as well as key stakeholders and we must constantly work to bolster the trust of our customers and communities.

Telling our story and advocating without apology for the water sector’s and our customers’ best interests will be the focus of the remainder of my year as President. I sincerely hope you will continue to join me in this mission for the sector. 

Thank you as always for your enduring support, 

Oluwole "OJ" McFoy


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