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Fall Conference Opening Remarks

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to welcome you to this year's Fall Conference for the Nebraska Section of the American Water Works Association, in what will be our 75th year of existence beginning in 2016. In the grand scheme of things, our Section is a relative pup by comparison to the other Sections as well as the Association, which was started in 1881.

While we may be a newcomer to the Association and small by membership count, our presence has made a difference. In addition to having once seated an Association President, Mr. John Cramer, who served in 1961, we are routinely recognized for excellence in membership retention. And for that it is worthwhile to recognize the membership committee that is currently led by Marc Rosso, as well as all those that have come before him. So let's give it up to that group.

What I would like to speak about for the next few minutes has to do with the overall management of water in the State of Nebraska. As time has gone by over the last decade, we have all become more aware of the interconnectedness of water. That could include the interconnection between ground water and surface water that many of us are dealing with from a regulatory standpoint, to the interconnection between uses of water. Water for energy and industrial needs, water for irrigation, water for environmental preservation, and of course water for consumption to name just a few.

At the Association level there is an initiative underway, and has been for several years, called Total Water Solutions. Simply put, the primary goal of Total Water Solutions is "to provide the information and experts to help you effectively and efficiently manage water from source to tap to reintroduction into the environment".

Closer to home, the state of Nebraska is getting national attention for our integrated approach. A July 2015 article in the Lincoln Journal Star, authored by Grant Schulte of the Associated Press, was very complimentary of our holistic approach, and noted that we are being sought out by many other states in the Union to share our story. Places like Florida, Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and yes, even California. The collaborative spirit, no-nonsense, roll-up-your-sleeves attitude of folks in the Heartland is getting some attention. And why? The article would point to significant local control and the diversity of the boards that are making the decisions.

So this gets me to a point in time this past August. On August 3rd and 4th, the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance hosted a technology field day at the Paulman Farm in the shadows of the Gerald Gentleman Power Plant in Sutherland, Nebraska. One of the goals of the event was to showcase how technology and innovation are being used for water savings. Soils probes, moisture content, soil profile, real time data, apply "only as much water as the crop needs" were words or phrases that were used frequently.

The importance of this event and the work being done by the group was internalized when the heavens opened up. The skies darkened, the clouds moved in, and the horizon filled with lightning going in every direction. It was a rather surreal moment as Mike Wentink, Joel Christensen, and I dove for cover. It was an unbelievable deluge that rattled buildings, blew down tents, and soaked the ground to capacity. When the skies calmed, several of the producers/farmers in attendance checked their mobile devices. One such producer was overheard to say, "Well I'll be, got three and ten-hundredths. Think I'll shut 'er down and save eight million gallons". Eight million gallons, one time around, one center pivot. You've got to love technology.

I walked away from the Paulman Farm that day appreciating where technology was going as it relates to agriculture. I also recalled a conversation I had with Jack Daniel not long ago where he shared with me his concern for nitrate management. The essence of the conversation was that in Nebraska we are losing the nitrate battle. I suspect we will hear more about the nitrate battle tomorrow, but my sense is that that is still the case today. The work being done by agriculture has a direct connection to nitrates and water use in general. Quality and quantity.

Total Water Solutions, collaboration, agriculture, nitrates. There is an interconnectedness there and the Nebraska Section of the American Water Works Association would do well to strengthen our relationship with the agriculture community to help them, to help ourselves.

The Fall Conference Committee has done an outstanding job of lining up some very interesting topics over the next day and half. With topics ranging from how to take care of various forms of plant equipment, what to do when that equipment fails to be energized, many project case studies, cross-connection and backflow control, the long-range plan to spruce up MUD's Florence plant, and concluding with the ever present DHHS Regulatory Update.

Before introducing our visiting dignitary, I would like to go back to something that was said at the beginning. And that has to do with membership. When we all climb back into our cars on Thursday afternoon to return to our normal routine, whether that be in the Sandhills where the water is deep, or along the eastern border of the state where water flows fast, let's take the time to think of three individuals that would be good additions as members of AWWA. Commit to reaching out to those individuals. Extend a hand and be an advocate for the many things AWWA has to offer our membership. It may take more than one ask. If you hear "no" the first time, that really means "maybe." So stay with it and continue to help expand our network even more. Who knows? One of those contacts may turn out to be the next John Cramer.