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10/18/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/18/2021 07:22

WEFTEC 2021: Equity and Policy Insights in Action

Jacobs is participating in the 94th Annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC 2021) being held October 16 - 20 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

WEFTEC is the world's largest wastewater conference, drawing more than 20,000 attendees from around the globe. This is the first major in-person water event since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we're a proud Partner-level sponsor.

Download a full list of Jacobs' participation at WEFTEC 2021

Numerous Jacobs innovators will be presenting in workshops, technical sessions and panels throughout the event, such as Jacobs Social Value/Equity Practice Leader Victoria Johnson who will chair the "How to Increase Diversity & Foster Inclusion in Your Organization" workshop on Monday Oct. 18.

Victoria shares more about the workshop, "How to Increase Diversity & Foster Inclusion in Your Organization," below.

Water and wastewater agencies can transform the communities they serve, and drive social, racial and environmental justice by addressing inequities and disparities in diverse service areas through intentional action and capital investments in water and wastewater.

The water sector is in a unique position to drive social change by maximizing innovation and investments in infrastructure. Communities prosper when all people have access to clean water, good jobs and viable economic opportunities. While extremely unfortunate, the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest throughout the U.S. presents an opportunity for utilities to address the disproportionate impact to under-resourced and vulnerable communities.

Water equity and environmental justice are equity-methods utilities can deploy to address systemic disparities and implement programs and policies to produce more equitable and inclusive outcomes. Utilities have a unique opportunity to go beyond their traditional mandate of providing safe, clean water services and serve as anchor institutions to spur economic vitality, stimulate community wealth building and remove barriers in marginalized and underserved communities.

At WEFTEC 2021, I will chair a four-hour workshop providing insights from a public, private, regulatory and legislative perspective on the role justice, equity, diversity and inclusion plays in the water sector and our collective call to action.

The Water Environment Federationhas prioritized equity, creating a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee to guide WEF's role in creating more inclusive outcomes. During our workshop, WEF's Immediate Past President Jackie Jarrell will provide opening comments on the role justice plays in the water sector and how utilities can actively engage in transforming into more inclusive and equitable agencies that benefit from diverse communities.

DC Waterhas a variety of programs demonstrating its commitment to water equity and environmental justice. Executive leaders, General Manager David Gadis and Chief Operating Officer Kishia Powell, (former Water Commissioner at City of Atlanta) are national water leaders, stewarding a new equity-focused strategic plan at the agency, as well as programs focused on multi-family unit affordability, utilization of the local workforce through DCWaterWorks, and development of a water equity roadmap in collaboration with 25+ cities/utilities convened by the U.S. Water Alliance. Sheryl Ude, DC Water's Senior Advisor to the Chief Operating Officer, will provide a case study of DC Water's heightened consciousness on equity, building upon years of advocacy and leadership, including the AEG 21Q1 Washington Challenge Taskforce and equity assessment strategies, tools and scoring techniques.WSSC Wateris also a water equity champion with executive advocacy from its very own General Manager Carla Reid. Intergovernmental Relations Director Karyn A Riley, Esq. will speak on "Water Equity in Action" and provide a case study on the role water equity plays at WSSC Water, including influencing the equity ecosystem, the building blocks of equity and adopting an equitable mindset because, according to WSSC Water, "an equitable community starts with an equitable utility."

Water Agency Leaders Alliance (WALA) is a collective of more than 25 general managers at utilities nationwide convened to prioritize water equity, diversifying the water workforce and legislative advocacy at the federal and state levels. WALA is chaired by Juliet Ellis, who will speak on the role water equity and environmental justice plays in the water sector, with insights from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new priorities, along with legislative efforts including the low-income water assistance program and the bipartisan infrastructure package, emerging from the Build Back Better Plan.

The US Water Allianceis a trusted advocate among utilities nationwide, stewarding impactful social, racial and environmental justice brain trusts and initiatives including the One Water Council (One Water Hub | US Water Alliance), chaired by DC Water COO Kishia Powell and An Equitable Water Future (An Equitable Water Future | US Water Alliance), launched by former US Water Alliance CEO Radhika Fox, current Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water. Alliance leaders Emily Simonson, Director of Strategic Programs and Morgan Brown, Senior Program Manager will provide insights on the role of racial equity in the water sector and policy insights from its Recovering Stronger Initiative (Recovering Stronger | US Water Alliance).

Victoria Johnson is Social Value/Equity Practice Leader advising our clients on large infrastructure programs throughout the U.S. She is a proven expert delivering innovative solutions to address the urgency of infrastructure challenges in overburdened communities through her work on Capital Improvement Programs in excess of $4B+ and redevelopment programs more than $20B. In recognition of her leadership on a variety of equity-focused initiatives, Victoria was recently appointed to serve on a national Industry Recovery Panel to advise the Biden Administration and 117th Congress on federal recovery policies in coming months, including the Build Back Better Plan.