Handing over with IWA having reached new heights

After more or less five years as President of IWA, this is my final article for The Source in that role.

As I reflect on those years, and IWA’s journey over that time, I believe I am stepping down after a period during which our Association took important further steps towards fulfilling its destiny.

Above all, I would point to progress with the involvement of developing countries in our network and activities. We are an organisation committed to the importance of water supply and of sanitation. We can only honestly say that if we can demonstrate that we are fully engaged with the most pressing challenges in the world. The most recent IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition, hosted by Sri Lanka, took us to new heights in this respect, not least in terms of the scope of the programme and the partnerships we were able to cultivate there. We can also look to the two new Specialist Groups that have been established – those on intermittent water supply and on non-sewered sanitation.

Looking back, I can confidently say that we have made great progress on diversity. There is a particular opportunity to progress this in our committees, Specialist Group networks, and events, around which roles are sought after and visible, as well as numerous. We have actively sought to improve diversity of different types, starting with age and gender, but, as importantly, ensuring representation of countries at different levels of development, and more generally fostering an identity that more broadly embraces and respects backgrounds in terms of language and culture. IWA and its predecessor organisations were built on the desire of water professionals to connect across borders with like-minded people. I am particularly proud to have been part of a drive to help IWA enrich further this desire of professionals of all kinds to connect with one another.

I have a water utility background and so brought that particular perspective to the role of President. Utilities deliver the services that actually meet the end goals of protecting the health of people and the environment. I know that IWA has still a huge potential to engage utilities to a greater extent and to contribute yet more to practical change at the utility level. The formation of the Specialist Group on Intermittent Water Supply provides an example of a very positive development in this respect. Intermittent supply is, unfortunately, a necessity for many utilities, affecting many millions of people. Our model offers a recipe for channelling international insight and expertise to where it can offer support.

The most recent IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition took us to new heights

These changes reflect a broader picture. Over the past five years, I see that IWA has been able to demonstrate a fluidity, adaptability, and ability to change. Our governance is robust and has supported this. I am pleased to have played a part in strengthening the financial resilience of the organisation. We have negotiated Brexit, with a relocation of operations to the UK headquarters and its new office, and we are on course to emerge from the challenges of COVID-19.

I hand over to my successor, Tom Mollenkopf, at a time when our Association is going through its latest phase of change, with the move to Open Access through IWA Publishing. The desire to further knowledge is in the DNA of IWA. As part of our purpose as a registered charity, it is the very foundation upon which we are built. The significance of this latest chapter in our development is explored in full by our Executive Director, Kala, in the article on p14. Now is indeed an ideal time for us to be showing leadership and grasping the opportunities that Open Access presents.

All of this progress has been a team effort, and I am extremely grateful to all those I have been fortunate to work with during my time as President, not least the Board, Kala, the management team, and our Governing Members.

I see that the organisation has grown and matured during its late teenage years

As IWA turns 21, it can be said to have reached adulthood. Five years ago, its character was already largely in place. Looking back, I see that the organisation has grown and matured during its late teenage years. The adult IWA is one that is set to contribute greatly and in doing so continue to draw the support and respect of the wider world. I am proud to have played a part in that, building on the course set by the past Presidents.

Of course, this is not goodbye – I look forward to contributing as immediate Past-President. For now, it is my pleasure to hand over to Tom, with whom I have been working hand in hand for the past 18 months, and I wish him well at the head of this wonderful organisation.