Welcome to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Hawaii Section.  AWWA is an international nonprofit scientific and educational society dedicated to the improvement of drinking water quality and supply.  Founded in 1881, AWWA is the largest organization of water supply professionals in the world.  Its more than 50,000 members represent the full spectrum of the drinking water community: treatment plant operators and managers, scientists, environmentalists, manufacturers, academicians, regulators, and others who hold genuine interest in water supply and public health. Membership includes more than 4,000 utilities that supply water to roughly 180 million people in North America.

Membership is divided into 43 sections that conduct seminars and lectures throughout the year for both the members and the public.  Technical papers and presentations are given and discussed at the annual meeting.

The AWWA Hawaii Section was established in 1975 and is dedicated to the promotion of public health and welfare in the provision of drinking water of unquestionable quality and sufficient quantity for Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and other Pacific American Commonwealths, Trusts, Territories, and possessions. 

The purpose of the AWWA Hawaii Section is the advancement and dissemination of knowledge concerning the improvement of practice in the design, construction, operation and management of water works and all related activities.  The AWWA Hawaii Section must be proactive and effective in advancing the technology, science, management, and government policies relative to the stewardship of water.

Please contact us via the mailing address below or via email at (Attention: [insert person’s name or position/committee]).

Chair, Mike Street

CHAIR'S MESSAGE - Mark Ohigashi

Aloha kakou,

A few months ago, I attended the Water Innovation Summit put on by Imagine H2O in San Francisco, California. Imagine H2O is a non-profit innovation accelerator focused on the water sector that helps startup companies with “the resources, insight and visibility to launch and scale their businesses” for their larger target markets. Over the years, Imagine H2O has developed a process for startups to be part of their cohorts of companies, whom earn the opportunity to be coached through a critical time in the lives of their companies. Ten years later, the current cohort pitched each of their companies and ideas to a room of investors and potential clients (water and wastewater utilities, consultants and large scale manufacturers) at Imagine H2O’s Demo Day. The companies were a great mix of innovative technologies that included water audit software, carbon-based electrochemical filters, low-flow atomizing water fixtures, cooling tower water-recapture retrofit technology, a real-time handheld non-invasive photon-based microbiology scanner, a low-cost portable membrane water filter intended for disaster relief or developing-country communities, fouling-resistant nanofiltration membranes, an automated compliance software platform for utilities and regulators, a wireless real-time radar-based level sensor and real-time membrane monitoring technology. While it was eye-opening to see the world of technology startup companies, accelerators and investors, what was extremely valuable were the topics addressed at the summit and the discussion that spilled over into the breaks and all the way back home.

The first topic was tackling obstacles for innovation in the water sector—while it is generally recognized that the water and wastewater utilities are slow to implement innovative technologies, there are a handful of them that push the envelope to be on the cutting-edge of treatment, delivery, metering and utility management. In my opinion, the overarching barrier to innovation is the lack of financial incentive for utilities to be more efficient absent a crisis. Some of the points brought up in the discussions included:

  • Inefficiency and non-revenue water (unaccounted water loss) already being built into the total cost of water delivery (revenue water)

  • Reliability, number of installations, and duration of service are traditional factors (and best practice) considered when specifying products, but are also obstacles for allowing emerging technologies to be considered for implementation

  • A single pilot or trial for implementation at utilities require so much funding and time that startup companies cannot provide the track records that utilities usually require for further expansion of the pilot

  • Difficulty for investors to invest in water sector startups because innovation is coming from small companies that need bottom-up investing (investment based on a good idea), but are in a top-down market since water and wastewater are basically commodities (valuable necessities) whose rates are regulated

The second topic was challenges and opportunities in the dichotomies that exist between the next generation (NextGen) and current generation (NowGen) of water professionals. Some of key takeaways of these discussions included:

  • Knowledge transfer is key between the NowGen and NextGen but is difficult when the NowGen is busy working and executing. Some utilities contract retired operators, engineers and managers to share their knowledge and mentor the NextGen without having to be responsible for the actual work. Other utilities have internal leadership programs without fear of the investment to engage the NextGen to have stake in the utility they work for and even if they leave, they will be a partner for the utility with whatever company/municipality they end up working for.

  • Utility managers and water professionals need to make water “sexy,” in that the NextGen will want to be engaged—answering the “why” question that Millennials are seeking in whatever they do, including why water is so valuable as a career and important to society as a whole

  • Diversity of thought and perspective should be encouraged when considering talent and the rest will follow when it comes to the other metrics of diversity

The summit was inspiring for me and really made me excited to be involved in the water sector. Attending and listening to the utility managers across the county also gives me hope that the future of our most important resource, water, is in good hands—the same that is true for the AWWA-Hawaii Section. Our new Chair, Kevin Ihu is the Program Administrator of the Water Systems Operations Division at the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, and I have no doubt that he will continue to bring the Section into the next generation with his steady hand and engaging spirit.

As my last Chair’s Message, I want to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Executive Board for their service over the past year, especially Susan Uyesugi (outgoing Treasurer) and Kapiolani Street (outgoing Secretary), and those that will continue serving in the same or different capacities including Kevin Ihu (past Vice Chair, incoming Chair), Daryl Hiromoto (Director), and Juanita Colon (past Past Chair, incoming Treasurer). I also want to thank those serving on the Board of Trustees and committees that have continued to make the Hawaii Section one that stands out across the Association.


Mark §

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