| AWWA Member Spotlight – Erin Young, Flagstaff, Ariz.
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AWWA Member Spotlight – Erin Young, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Erin Young in canoeNote: Erin Young (pictured right) played a key role in the City of Flagstaff becoming the first Arizona water utility to be named to the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Leaderboard, which is based on the American Water Works Association's (AWWA) G480 Standard. The achievement, announced in September 2020, recognizes her department’s efforts to develop and run an effective water conservation program.

Job title and employer: Water Resources Manager, City of Flagstaff

Education/certification: B.S., Geology, Arizona State University; M.S., Geology, Northern Arizona University; Arizona Registered Geologist

Job duties: I supervise the water resources and conservation section of the water services division. My job duties include conducting long-term master planning projects, administrating the City’s 100-year designation of adequate water supply permit, and overseeing our groundwater monitoring and development projects. I sit on several committees and provide support to our legal team preparing for the Little Colorado River water adjudication. Our nationally recognized water conservation program is led by our water conservation manager, Tamara Lawless.

Erin Young with daughter and dogHow and why did you get into the water industry? I am a water person – it’s my element and I love the sound, feel, sight, taste and power of water. Lakes, streams, springs, snow, ice, rain, weather – I’ve felt a strong connection to water for as long as I can remember. While studying geology at Arizona State I joined the Arizona Hydrological Society where I met a wonderful group of water professionals who shared my interests in water, structural geology and geomorphology. The friend who took me to my first meeting told me he was leaving his position at a Phoenix area groundwater consulting firm, the owner being a founding member of AHS. I contacted the owner, Gary Small, mentioned my friend and my involvement with AHS, interviewed and was hired for that entry-level position when I graduated. The senior staff at HydroSystems, Inc. were so patient, and I gained confidence and grew into a profession I love. (Pictured from left, Erin, her daughter Juliet and Zephyr)

What led to your focus on water conservation? With water being an essential resource for all, it is our duty as a water utility to be stewards of the resource. In water resource management I found myself striving for stewardship in three areas: efficient production and delivery of our water resources; reducing waste after the customer meter; and investigating and implementing opportunities to conserve and reuse our water supply.

How have AWWA resources helped with Flagstaff Water Services’ conservation efforts? My first example is the M36 Water Audit and Loss Control Programs manual and associated information. Before I knew much about non-revenue water, I was asked to report to our city council on our utility’s performance on “lost and unaccounted for water.” I found it complicated to decipher a year-to-year trend resulting from our new leak detection program. I discovered the M36 manual, AWWA’s Water Audit software, videos, etc., and I was so relieved because AWWA articulated the accounting issues that were haunting me with the lost-and-unaccounted-for method. Since then, Flagstaff has attended several workshops on the Water Audit software, and we hope to execute our first formal audit for 2020’s data.

Second, the M52 Water Conservation Programs manual has guided our development of a water conservation work plan. We expanded on the plan in 2018 to hire consultant Maddaus Water Management to prepare a city water conservation strategic plan.

TWater resources and conservation team membershird, our city council adopted a goal in 2017 for Flagstaff to become a national leader in water conservation, and while working on the conservation strategic plan, Maddaus encouraged us to include the standards outlined in AWWA’s G480-13 Water Conservation Program Operation and Management. We then applied for the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Leaderboard and were subsequently recognized at the Gold Level. (Pictured from left, water resources and conservation team members Kate Miele, Erin Young, Cara Corbin, Mary Samar, Rae Byars-Kursky. Tamara Lawless not pictured.)  

What suggestions for conserving water do you have for other water systems? It is up to the professionals working for water utilities to demonstrate stewardship through meaningful action since water conservation is still largely a voluntary effort even in places where conservation is mandated. AWWA provide us standards and tools that provide an honest assessment of where we stand on performance.

Describe your personal interests: I’ve always been a big skier – I could ski for months and miles and never be tired of it! I’d love to ski and paddle the length of Norway someday.
(Photos courtesy of Erin Young)