AWRA Water Blog

An Introduction and a Preview…

C. Mark Dunning, AWRA President

C. Mark Dunning, 2014 AWRA President

Happy 2014! As I write this on a bright sunny winter’s day here in central Virginia, I’m looking forward to my term as president of AWRA, especially presiding over AWRA’s 50th anniversary.

As with many others, my entry into water resources came about somewhat by accident.

When my enlistment in the U.S. Army came to a close in the early 1970’s, I was faced with finding a job. At that time the federal government had a very simple job application process for veterans – particularly those with advanced degrees in science or engineering. I filled out a short form and received several job offers within a few weeks. One of the offers was from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a water resources planning position.

My acceptance of this offer launched a rewarding career of some 31 years with the Corps. In my early years I did project development work in a Corps district office, working on a large reservoir project, numerous local flood risk management (then termed flood control) projects and the replacement of a major navigation lock and dam. These projects gave me a great appreciation for the role that water resources development plays in supporting the nation’s economic development and improving quality of life. At this time there was also a growing awareness that sustainability had to be part of any development equation, and while sustainable development concepts were not always easy to apply, the results were always better when these concepts were made part of water resources plans.

After spending several years working in the district office I transferred to the Corps’ Institute for Water Resources (IWR) in the Washington, DC area. Known as the Corps’ policy think tank and planning methodology development center, I spent almost 25 years there working on many interesting and challenging projects.

One project, in particular, was very important for introducing me to AWRA. In the late 1990’s several federal water resources leaders promoted an idea for an inter-agency water policy initiative, led by AWRA, to focus attention on critical water resources challenges facing the nation. I was selected to be the Corps of Engineers representative on the federal agency steering committee that planned the event. The water policy dialogue, as the initiative was known, brought together water resources experts to present ideas on critical water resources issues and encouraged discussions among stakeholders from all water sectors. While no consensus was sought, general themes that came out of the dialogue were published and sent to Congress and the Administration.

The first national water resources policy dialogue, held in 2002, proved to be a great success and ultimately led to three additional dialogues. These discussions helped sensitize people to key water resources concepts and issues, like the need for integrated water resources management, that have since found their way into federal agency policies and initiatives.

After retiring from federal service I moved to the private sector and am now a senior planner and project manager for CDM Smith in Fairfax, VA. I have been active in AWRA since working on the national policy dialogues, serving as president of the National Capital Regional Section of AWRA, serving on AWRA’s Board of Directors and now assuming the AWRA presidency for 2014.

So, that’s a little about what continues to be a very rewarding career in water resources. As I look forward to 2014, I intend to use this column to discuss a variety of water resources topics that I hope AWRA members will find interesting and relevant. Part of the time this discussion will take the form of a special feature I’m calling “Windows on Water Management” (WWM) in which I will include interviews with water resources experts on a variety of topics. Look for our first WWM interview next month. Until then, best wishes for a great New Year!

C. Mark Dunning is AWRA President and a senior planner and project manager for CDM Smith, Fairfax, VA. Email:

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