As we close the door on 2019, the OMWA can look back on a year full of challenges and changes but with this, also comes new opportunities.
At the most recent AGM, in December, the OMWA underwent a self-refection of sorts. As the water, stormwater and wastewater industry landscape continues to evolve, it was imperative that the OMWA reflect on our mission statement, our mandates, and why we do what we do. From this strategic planning review arose many new ideas and exciting potential. Details on this session will be posted in early 2020!
But let’s be clear on one thing: the main purpose of the OMWA has always been to advocate on behalf of our members, to work with the province’s MECP on the policies, procedures, and governance issues that directly impact our member municipalities and our First Nations. This will never change, and as the strategic planning session showed us, it is imperative we continue to provide this foundation for public water authorities across the province.
The session also was a great reminder and confirmation that the OMWA is committed to continuing to be the voice for public water authorities. In an ever-evolving industry, we are dedicated to delivering on this mandate, to be an influential part of the dialogue on industry challenges, and to continue to be involved in the conversation for the overall collaborative effort that is required as we move forward.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Walkerton tragedy, we are reminded of the many changes we have witnessed over the past two decades. As an industry, we should be proud of the progress that has been made towards making Ontario, arguably, the safest drinking water in the world. It is important that we never let our guard down, never forget Walkerton and what can happen.
Some of the biggest challenges facing our industry today are different and may shape the industry for many years to come if we do not face them head on and think strategically:
- Public water utilities will continue to face infrastructure challenges. How do we find innovative ways toward identifying prioritization and having better decision-making processes in place?
- There will be a sharp increase in retiring operators in the coming decade and this poses a real threat of losing operational knowledge and experience. How do we ensure the transfer of this knowledge and are we properly developing succession planning to address?
- Regulatory changes will continue to be part of the conversation. As always, these decisions can impact the budget decision-making process. How do we work with regulators to ensure public water authorities have timely information and the support to deal with the impact on operational and capital budgets?
Challenges have always been part of our industry and always will be, but we are fortunate that there are so many dedicated individuals across the province. I personally, have been privileged to work with many of you, to have had discussions on the challenges we have faced and the challenges to come. With challenges, come opportunities, a time to be innovative, a time to collaborate, and perhaps most importantly, a time to work together and to continue to build relationships.
As we enter 2020, I am confident that we will continue to evolve as an industry, as we always have, and the OMWA is committed to having a substantial role in these conversations.
On a personal note, I would like to thank our outgoing president, Rosemary Kelleher-MacLennan, who served on the board for 21 years and contributed greatly to its accomplishments during that time. We will miss her wisdom, her insight, and her warm personality.
I would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
President, Ontario Municipal Water Association