AWRA Water Blog

AWRA Women in Water Resources Interview #6: Janet L. Bowers

Janet L. Bowers, AWRA President, 2000

This interview is the sixth and final piece of a series, written/conducted by AWRA Immediate Past President Martha Narvaez, celebrating the role of AWRA Women in Water Resources.

Current Position
Executive Director, Chester County Water Resources Authority

Positions Held

  • Director, Water Resources Division – Dames & Moore
  • Senior Water Resources Project Manager – Coastal Environmental Services
  • Director, Environmental/Geothermal Division – Meridian Corporation
  • Water Resources Analyst – Dames & Moore

Education

  • S. Geology/Hydrogeology – West Virginia University
  • A. Geology – Catawba College, NC

Honors and Appointments

  • National President – American Water Resources Association (2000)
  • AWRA President’s Outstanding Service Award
  • AWRA Fellow Award
  • President – National Capital Section
  • Water Resources Association of Delaware River Basin Achievement Award
  • PA Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Region – Community Environmental Excellence Award
  • Pennsylvania Statewide Water Resources Committee Appointee
  • Delaware River Basin Commission Water Resources Management Committee Appointee

Q&A

How did you get involved in the water resources field? I always loved walking and hiking along streams and waterfalls. I learned to appreciate water even more while I was in Girl Scouts. In college I had the chance to take an independent study which included geomorphology and river features. Ever since these experiences I have gravitated to professional opportunities that involved water.

And with AWRA? During my first job out of school I worked at Dames and Moore, Bethesda, MD. I had been there about a month and was working on a FEMA project with several other young professionals. One day, a senior engineer, Don Thomas, asked six of us to go to lunch.  Thinking nothing of it, and that I was getting a free lunch I went. It turns out the lunch was really a lunch meeting with the AWRA National Capital Section in Washington, DC.

How has the water resources field changed since you started your career? There are two significant changes: women and better technology.

First of all, a lot more women are involved now than there were when I started my career. There are more women in engineering and the science fields. The field has also become much more collaborative-based, there is a need for collaboration among stakeholders and scientists. I believe the increased collaboration in the field has attracted more women into the water resources field.

Secondly, technology has absolutely changed since I started my career. It is incredible how quickly we can get data, how much better the data is and how much more frequently we can get it.

How will the water resources field change in the next few years? I imagine there are a few ways the field will change. First, hopefully there will be more success at raising awareness among the general populous to their connection with water resources. For example, understanding how they influence water and how water influences them. I believe efforts are beginning to get a foothold in raising public awareness but we have a long way to go. Secondly, I believe the increased collaboration among stakeholders will continue to expand, which will lead to successes in improving water quality. Finally, I am hopeful through the work of all of our good professionals and volunteers who are working so hard in collaborative efforts and with our improved technology that we will finally be able to demonstrate, through monitoring, improved water quality.

Biggest career success? Completing the Integrated Water Resources Plan for Chester County and Its Watersheds. This report laid the groundwork for me and other people in Chester County to be able to protect and restore and better utilize the natural water resources. In addition, I really learned so much from doing it. It was what we learned from doing the report that helped us to go on and apply these principles in a lot of our projects. It also brought me into closer working and professional relationships with many stakeholders in the water resources community. This network that was established through preparation of the Plan has been invaluable.

Another significant career success has been the opportunity to see and work with other women professionals who I could then bring into AWRA leadership. It has been a very gratifying experience to see Jane Rowan, Martha Narvaez, Carol Collier and several others that have come into the organization and risen to AWRA leadership positions.

Biggest lesson learned in your career? Know what to go to the mat for. Pick your battles. Save the battles for the ones that are really important.

Biggest regret? Merrell Streep, in her speech at the Democratic Convention, noted that to be the first female at any high position takes “grit and grace”. I wish I had more grace.

Share a leadership story? Leadership at AWRA has literally taken me to all four corners of the continent. My biggest “yeah!!” experience as a leader in AWRA was the field trip during the AWRA Fairbanks, AK, Specialty Conference.  The highlight was getting our picture taken standing on the frozen ice of the Arctic Ocean with a bunch of other crazy water resource professionals. Had I not been in a leadership role with AWRA I never would have even been in Fairbanks, AK, let alone standing on the Arctic Ocean.

Biggest challenge as a woman in the business? Being heard. Being listened to. I’ve been fortunate that I don’t feel like I was ever held back from a position or role that I wanted because I was a woman but I do feel that many times when a female professional has something to say it is not often heard in its entirety and at the depth to which it’s intended, until it’s said by someone else.

One piece of advice you wish someone told you early on in your career? Grace first, grit second.

True inspiration?

  • The beautiful landscapes that reflect our water resources of this country.
  • The wonderful women and men water resources professionals who went before me that I had the benefit of learning from.

As mentioned, this is the final piece in a six-part series on AWRA’s Women in Water. Read the other interviews with Arlene Dietz, Brenda Bateman, Jane Rowan and Carol Collier and Lisa Beutler by searching for Women in Water on this blog.

Author Martha Narvaez is AWRA’s Immediate Past President. Email: mcorrozi@UDel.Edu

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