Dr. Glen Daigger provided the Perry McCarty Distinguished Lecture at Stanford University in May, discussing the imperative for change in the water profession.

By Dr. Glen Daigger, International Water Association President and CH2M HILL Senior Vice President and Chief Water Technology Officer

During the first week in May, I was privileged to visit Stanford University to serve as the Perry L. McCarty Distinguished Lecturer.  This was the third in an endowed lecture series which is named after the Stockholm Water Prize winning Stanford Professor Emeritus Perry L. McCarty.  Of course, the firm has quite a number of Stanford grads, including our former CEO Ralph Peterson who was a student of Perry’s.  The two previous lecturers were Alexander Zehnder (former head of EAWAG in Switzerland) and Rita Colwell, also a Stockholm Water Prize winner.

In my lecture I talked about the imperative for change in the water profession, the nature of the changes we need to make, and the necessity for water professionals to provide leadership to catalyze the necessary changes.  What we need to accomplish is clear. First we must change our approach to water management (which of course also includes wastewater management) to avoid the widespread occurrence of water stress which will otherwise occur.  Second, we must accomplish this while using fewer natural resources than has historically been the case so that our solutions will be more sustainable.  Third, on a global basis we must extend water and wastewater service so that the half of the human population lacking truly safe water and the three-quarters without wastewater service do, in fact, enjoy the human right to water and sanitation.  Big jobs, but jobs that can be done.

How will we do this?  It is through making full use of all of the technologies and practices available to us and integrating them into systems that are significantly more effective.  The concept of resource recovery – water, energy, and nutrients – needs to be routinely and effectively implemented.  Accomplishing this will require nearly revolutionary changes over time, which is why the profession must provide effective leadership.

It was great to see old friends at Stanford, to make some new ones, and especially to spend some time with my good friend Perry.  He is a great inspiration and role model for us all.  As I tell Perry, when I grow up, I want to be just like him.

Read all of Dr. Daigger’s travelogues.