What We Learned at AWWA’s ACE22 Conference

Jul 7, 2022

Conference season over the last few months was revealing both for the lessons learned from conversations with water industry professionals and for how relieved everyone in the industry seemed to be at having live events once again. While COVID-related safety protocols were a new addition to the events, the topics that were the most recurring in conversations centered around i) risk management and ii) resilience planning to ensure the right priorities are addressed with any new funding coming into the water systems.

Risk management and resilience 

The conversations about risk centered on beginning to acknowledge that our previous ways in the industry of only looking at risk from the perspective of emergency preparedness will no longer serve. Especially as we are all recognizing that by the time an issue (internal or external) registers as an emergency, then we’ve already failed to catch or mitigate the risks. And we’re learning that these are risks we could have noticed earlier if we’d taken advantage of the availability of the tools now in the market. 

There was also conversation about how much resilience is a fluid state and not a static situation. At the conferences, building system resilience — which is related to risk – was spoken of as a continuous and ongoing process that will benefit from the funding coming into the industry. There were notes of caution though, the main one being that it would be a shame to let all the money coming into the industry get spent on low-priority projects which might not actually improve the resilience of the system (even if these projects have been on a water system’s intended use plans for a long time). Instead, there is a need to be able to prioritize spending on the highest need projects amid ever-changing risks. To do this, water systems need to match their fluid resilience state with an equally dynamic risk assessment. 

As water professionals from across the country gathered and went back to their respective cities at the end of conferences in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Upper New York State and San Antonio, the consensus is that there is a great opportunity in front of the industry to implement on the necessary resilience and risk management actions we’ve long wanted to address. We must make use of this opportunity now. 

This is why we built the Varuna Resilience Dashboard. This tool helps you illuminate high-priority risks, determine what’s worth spending on, and create dynamic resilience plans that keep your city safe. Learn more about the dashboard and see if it’s a good fit for your city.