What a Privilege

The 2019 NGWA president looks back on a historic 12 months.

By Scott King, PG, P.Geo., LHG

It actually happened. As the first non-contractor to hold the office of president of our great association, I have been privileged to lead and honored to serve the National Ground Water Association over this past year.

King welcomed attendees to NGWA’s PFAS Management, Mitigation, and Remediation Conference earlier this year in Westerville, Ohio.

I look back at my early years when NGWA was still the National Water Well Association and recall there was no way for me to rise to this level of service. It wasn’t something I spent much time thinking about then, and it simply wasn’t possible by regulation. Some of you will also remember the deep division and mistrust that occurred between sections in the past. Then came foresight and determination of previous leaders to bring all of our members into the leadership mix. Without those individuals, I would not have had this opportunity.

There is still more work to be done, but we are stronger when we draw from the entire talent pool in NGWA, our voice is louder, and our message goes further when we all work together.

When I began my term as president, there were two key words I considered to be important: change and relevance. I was quite conscious I was a symbol of change for this organization and that some members may feel uncomfortable about that. Fortunately, my experience has shown the opposite. Mutual respect and understanding of the various roles and contributions that members have in the groundwater industry are keys for us to be successful.

As you know, change is all around us in the groundwater industry. The demand for water supplies, legal fights, industry consolidation, environmental degradation, sustainability, and resilience of our most treasured resource—all affect the business life of our members and the social license that comes from exploitation of groundwater resources. The challenge of change can best be overcome when we use the vast reservoir of expertise of our entire membership.

The second piece of the puzzle was answering the question, “How do we stay relevant to all of our members?” Today, many associations are seeing declining membership for various reasons and NGWA has had to battle this too. Leading the way is that many people feel they just don’t have the time anymore. I like to put it another way: The value of being a member isn’t worth some people’s personal time. We must address that issue.

As you know, NGWA is unique in its composition: We are an industry trade association mixed with a scientific society. To me that is a strength to highlight. But one of the great challenges ahead of us in a changing world is that our association must be relevant and provide value for all of its membership. Otherwise, why have an association?

King presented NGWA’s 2019 Groundwater Protector Award to Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Boyle at the NGWA Groundwater
Fly-In and Water Resources Congressional Summit.

One area of focus for me this year was to lead the Board of Directors so that we could fulfill our duty of effective board operation and fiduciary responsibilities to the association’s membership. I am happy to report I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of your directors this year and how they have worked together.

All have been dedicated and active in their participation leading to productive discussions. We are progressing on our strategic plan and committed to our mission, vision, and values. Among our short-term goals are: expansion of our Groundwater Foundation to reach more communities in North America; creating a “better together” culture in the industry for our members and groundwater communities; becoming better partners with our state affiliates; and bringing more value to our members and prospects.

We want to be the lead groundwater resource at the federal, state, and local government levels with our comprehensive advocacy plan. We have identified two important areas where we believe our diverse membership can lead now and that is with respect to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination of groundwater and encouraging managed aquifer recharge (MAR). We have tremendous resources and expertise within our membership to cover all aspects of the groundwater space, but to be truly successful, we also need to find the open space that we can call our own and work together.

We held another joint advocacy event with the Irrigation Association, Water Quality Association, and Water Systems Council at our Groundwater Fly-In and Water Resources Congressional Summit earlier this year in Washington, D.C. I heartily ask you to consider participating in some way to support our association efforts advocating for groundwater and our industry in the future.

Other directors and I have traveled to many of our affiliates’ annual meetings this year. These were great opportunities to re-establish relationships, provide an update of what NGWA is doing at the national level, and learn the concerns of members at the local level.

As we develop our comprehensive advocacy plan, the “grassroots” will become more important to our strategic interests. I am always amazed at the commonalities I observe across the country expressed in the passion, knowledge, and competence of our groundwater community. The more I learn about what our members do, the more impressed I have become.

There is no doubt NGWA and its members contribute in a substantial way to the benefit of this country and around the world. As we move forward as an association, I would like to see us embrace change, stay relevant, prepare for more external pressure on the groundwater industry, and realize that working together truly makes us all better together.

Scott King, PG, P.Geo., LHG, is a senior associate hydrogeologist for Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions and lives in Buffalo, New York. He is the first president of the National Ground Water Association to come from its Scientists and Engineers Section. He can be reached at scott.king@woodplc.com.