AWWA Articles

AWWA Member Spotlight -- Suzanne DeLorenzo, Ph.D., Clackamas, Ore.

Job title and employer: Water Quality & Conservation Manager, Clackamas River Water (CRW)

Education: Ph.D., Environmental Science and Engineering, Oregon Health & Science University; M.S., Biomedical Science, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey;Suzanne DeLorenzo B.S., Biology, Monmouth University; Oregon Water Treatment Operator Level 2 (Photos courtesy of Suzanne DeLorenzo)

Job duties: I manage CRW’s water quality department and lab, overseeing regulatory and non-regulatory monitoring of the distribution system, reporting, watershed monitoring, and laboratory processes and accreditation. I track and respond to legislation that can impact CRW and the drinking water industry at the state and national level. I handle public outreach and communication related to water quality and conservation, including dabbling in graphic design for informational brochures, newsletters and CCRS. I serve as CRW’s webmaster and am the FAA licensed drone pilot for the district. I’m a veritable Swiss-army knife.

How and why did you get involved in the water industry? I’ve been drawn to water for as long as I can remember. During my undergrad I worked on a microbial source tracking project that made me re-evaluate my academic goals and career path. I loved everything about it - the sampling, microbiology, data analysis, even the freezing winter days on a boat on the Manasquan River. I continued working on the source tracking project during my master’s program and hit an interesting crossroads when I completed my degree. Head to medical school or move across the country to get a Ph.D. in Environmental Science?

I chose an environmental science program at OHSU and spent lots of time in the Pacific Ocean studying microbial interactions in hypoxic zones. While I was in the last two years of my program, a job came up at CRW. I read the description and thought “I can do that.” After all, water is water. I got lucky and somebody took a chance on an offbeat scientist not yet finished with grad school. Almost eight years later here I am.

What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on? I love merging science with practical application and am currently working to enhance CRW’s cyanobacteria monitoring program. In short, we’re building a cyanotoxin monitoring lab. For some time, we’ve run a FlowCAM and auto analyzer to monitor our watershed. However, a recent rise in cyanobacteria blooms and detections of cyanotoxins prompted the Oregon Health Authority to begin regulating cyanotoxins. In response we’ve brought in a Cyanotoxin Automated Assay System to analyze raw water and finished drinking water for cyanotoxins. We’ll also be running qPCR - a technique that quantifies DNA found in a sample - to monitor raw water for cyanotoxin producing genes. Our data will be shared with other water providers who draw from the same river. The goal is to provide enough information so that we can anticipate changes in our raw water quality upstream, before it impacts our drinking water. Instead of reacting to a cyanotoxin detection, we want to adapt and modify our treatment processes before we have a problem.

Suzanne surfingWhy did you join AWWA, and how have you benefited from your membership? When I first joined the industry, I wasn’t aware of AWWA but was sent to attend an Oregon Water Utility Council meeting. I learned I was an AWWA member through CRW! As the new kid, I was instantly put in a leadership role. Within two years I participated in my first Water Matters! Fly-in and joined the Association’s Young Professionals (YP) Committee. I’m currently on the PNWS-AWWA Board of Trustees and the Journal -AWWA Advisory Board. AWWA introduced me to aspects of a career in the water industry that I didn’t know about and allowed for exponential personal and professional growth during the formative years of my career in drinking water.

What interests you about being on the Journal--AWWA Advisory Board? Wrangling up authors is like herding cats. However, I’ve met interesting people along the way and learned about what goes into making a great article. It’s been tough at times, but overall rewarding. I’m working on developing an annual “5 under 35” segment with the YP Committee. The article will highlight five YPs, tomorrow's leaders, who have the potential to change the face of the drinking water industry. We are excited to showcase YP talent across the nation.

Family and outside interests: My husband, Duane, and I live in Portland with our geriatric bulldog, Madeline. We work different schedules, so we always set aside Sundays Suzanne and husband, Duanefor adventures like snowboarding in the winter, surfing in the summer, and trail riding on dirt bikes in-between. I enjoy taking my Triumph Daytona 675r out on the race track from time to time and leaving Duane in my dust on the front stretch at Portland International Raceway.  He does his best to keep up.

What is your favorite thing about living in Oregon? It’s wild. I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. In one day, you can watch the sunrise over the Wallowa Mountains, cruise through a slot canyon, visit a ghost town in a desert, stand on a dormant volcano, have a microbrew in the city, zip through a rainforest, and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. There are places out here that can make you feel so small and isolated, where you can get lost for days… and it’s amazing.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you? I used to be a very quiet and shy person. True story.