John Donahue accepted the ceremonial AWWA gavel at ACE14
In an event at the conclusion of the American Water Works Assn.’s (AWWA) Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE14) in Boston in June, John Donahue, CEO of North Park (Ill.) Water District, accepted the ceremonial AWWA gavel and began his term as president.
The gavel passing ceremony was the culmination of a five-day conference that drew more than 11,000 water professionals and water technology providers to Boston.
Saying he considered this to be “the most exciting time in recent memory for AWWA,” Donahue summarized a plan for stronger association-section alignment and elevated efforts to open a new AWWA office in India.
“We will utilize the combined strength of the association and sections to form one AWWA,” Donahue said. “We will work together to combine our brands and align our strategic plans, which will allow us to look like one AWWA. We will work together to provide educational opportunities to our members, especially rural and small systems, with the association preparing the content and the sections delivering it.”
Noting that only 28% of households in India have access to piped drinking water and only 26% have access to sanitation, Donahue said India’s water challenges are in some ways similar to those that gave birth to AWWA.
“I say, as the world’s foremost authority on safe water, we not only have the capability to make a difference in countries like India, but we have an obligation to do so,” he said. "I am excited for the challenges that lay before us, and I firmly believe we are not only capable of meeting them, but far exceeding them.”
Donahue follows AECOM Senior Consultant Jim Chaffee of Wisconsin as AWWA’s top volunteer leader. Before handing over the gavel, Chaffee announced to the audience that President Barack Obama signed legislation creating a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a concept developed and promoted by AWWA. WIFIA represents an important step forward in answering the single greatest challenge facing the water profession, repairing and replacing aging water infrastructure.
Donahue has been an active member of AWWA’s Illinois Section for more than 20 years, earning the George Warren Fuller Award in 2009. At the association level, he has served as an association vice president, represented the Illinois Section as a member of the board of directors and has chaired or participated in numerous association committees, including the Distribution Plant Operations Div., Heroism Award and Operator Involvement Committees.