AWRA Water Blog

Being President of AWRA: An Unforgettable Experience

November 2017 President’s Column

Rafael Frias, III
2017 AWRA President

WHAT AN HONOR it has been to serve as president of AWRA! I am amazed at how quickly this year has passed; a testament to the axiom “time flies when you are having fun.” Being part of AWRA and leading this great organization has truly been an unforgettable experience. As I write this message, I find myself reminiscing about our efforts this year and the lessons I have learned while pondering what is yet to come.

I must confess it took me some time to embrace that as president of AWRA there is an increased level of attention inherent with the role. It took some getting used to. Often, I found myself in situations where people would know me and I would wonder why. I have always admired the caliber of professionals that form our membership and frequent our meetings, so this higher level of attention was a kind surprise. Originally, I perceived my role as an opportunity to meet our great minds and leaders within the water resources community. As I performed my role, l also learned that it was a chance to represent our members in recognition of their efforts to support our water resources.

AWRA has benefited from great leaders over the years, from our founder, Sandor Csallany, to a true developer of water resources talent, A. Ivan Johnson. Their vision shaped the multidisciplinary nature of our organization. For the past four years, the Board of Directors has invested greatly on our strategic position to remain relevant in the water resources community. During the last year we continued with our strategy to increase the value to our members and communicate that value through investments in technology, conferences and relationships with our state sections.

With regard to technology, we commenced with revamping AWRA’s website to ensure all of our members have access to the latest water resources information and could maximize their engagement in support of our goal to promote “Community, Conversation and Connections.” On the conferences front, we have worked to improve the “conference experience” of our participants by enhancing the focus on water resources science to further support the success of JAWRA, our Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Pertaining to state sections, we have continued to foster our relationships with leaders of the state groups by increasing collaboration and participating at their annual meetings. The support of the state sections was not the work of one person. It was the comprehensive effort of the Board of Directors, which took the opportunity during the year to represent AWRA at state section meetings across the United States and globally during the international conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, in September.

We have also furthered the engagement of our technical committees by identifying our next group of committee leaders. These committees, and their leaders, foster multidisciplinary collaboration, develop future conferences and webinars, and enhance the organization’s intellectual bank of thought leaders. Examples of their work include the development of two AWRA policy statements to support our water resources: “Strategic Approaches for Revitalizing Water Resource Infrastructure in the USA” and “Ensuring Sustainable Funding for Water Resource Infrastructure.”

A benefit of leading such a great organization is being able to look beyond what we have accomplished and envision what is yet to come, and I must say that AWRA’s future is bright. We have a great talent in Brenda Bateman, our incoming president, to move the organization forward. I have had the pleasure to work with Brenda over the years, since her involvement in the Policy Technical Committee, and most recently as president-elect. As the originator of AWRA’s National Leadership Institute, I have come to admire the passion Brenda exhibits toward the organization, and I know our members and the water resources community will benefit from this passion.

What better way to close the year than with our upcoming AWRA National Conference in Portland, Oregon, November 5-9, 2017. Led by Brenda and AWRA’s Technical Director and Past President Michael Campana, the National Conference will deliver on our promise of re-affirming AWRA’s commitment to science, transparency and inclusivity in the management of water resources. The conference showcases the hard work of our technical committees by including special sessions to address emerging issues related to technology, flowing waters, future risk, public policy, integrated water resources management and the international perspective of water resources. Please join me in Portland for continued collaboration and dialogue in support of water resources management and AWRA’s goal to provide “Community, Conversations and Connections.”

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as President of AWRA during 2017; it has been an experience I will never forget. I am very proud to be part of this great organization and I look forward to networking with you at future meetings, including the upcoming National Conference. In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter (@AWRAHQ and @RafaFriasIII) to stay abreast of AWRA’s efforts.

Rafael E. Frias, III can be reached at

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