| Oceans apart, together for water, AWWA hosts Japanese water association
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Oceans apart, together for water, AWWA hosts Japanese water association

Japan Water Works Association (JWWA) members and staff spent several days learning about American water delivery and treatment systems last week at the American Water Works Association’s headquarters in Denver, Colo.

The 11-member Japanese contingent (pictured right with AWWA CEO David LaFrance), including representatives from JWWA’s seven regional branches, participated in David LaFrance with JWWA representativesdiscussions about water supply, sources and treatment, utility finance and governance, facility and asset standards and rate setting.

According to participant Suguru Watanabe (pictured below), section manager with JWWA’s Tokyo-based training and international department, JWWA’s predecessor, the Federation of Water Authorities, was established in 1904 to share information, solve common problems in the water sector and introduce modern water supply.

In 1932, due to Japanese water utilities’ growing needs for research and knowledge about construction, public hygiene and administration of water supply, the organization was granted approval by the Minister of Interior to become the Japan Water Works Association. One of its first accomplishments was to establish a water quality examination standard.

Suguraru WatanabeToday, JWWA members represent more than 1,300 water utilities and more than 500 companies. Through an agreement with AWWA, a JWWA committee translates Journal AWWA articles into Japanese and publishes them in the Journal of JWWA.

“Water supply is an essential lifeline for peoples’ daily lives as well as social and economic activities,” Watanabe said. “As water supply services expand to global markets, Japan seeks to elevate its current levels of water supply to meet international trends and contribute to uplifting developing countries.”

Watanabe shared the following details from his work and family life.

Education: Master of Civil Engineering, Tohoku Gakuin University.

Job duties: In addition to supporting high-quality water supply services in Japan, JWWA actively plays a responsible role in the international community. This includes interaction and cooperation with overseas water works associations and the International Water Association. We develop and implement initiatives to address current trends, such as sustainable development goals, international standardization and overseas training.

How did you get involved in the water sector? I did research on water treatment and water quality analysis at the university. At JWWA, I can learn about the entire water service. I am proud to work in this organization.

What are some of the challenges in Japan’s water sector?
1.    A deteriorating financial situation
2.    Aging water pipes and facilities
3.    Insufficient earthquake-resistant facilities
4.    Fewer skilled water engineers
5.    Vulnerability of small water utilities

Describe a challenge you’ve encountered: Japan experienced the “Great East Japan Earthquake” in 2011. It registered a 9.0 magnitude, which was the largest earthquake in the recorded history of Japan and the fourth-largest in the world since the start of the 20th century. It also created a big tsunami. This unprecedented experience reaffirmed the importance of a mutual support system in the event of a disaster. My parents’ house was damaged by the earthquake. It was impossible to clean for a long time because there was no water. I realized the importance of water again.

What is your connection with AWWA? JWWA became a member of AWWA in 1952 and has been constructing friendships for about 70 years. We trained about 150 young water professionals to participate in AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exhibit (ACE) from 1990 to 2013. More recently, JWWA staff has attended ACE to exchange information.

How is AWWA viewed globally? While AWWA has advanced activities in North America, it is respected for having branches outside of the United States. In addition, AWWA participated in a water association meeting in 2018 during the International Water Association’s World Water Congress & Exhibition in Tokyo. We thank AWWA for signing theAmane and Minori Watanabe Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation Among Individual Water Associations, along with seven other participating associations (JWWA, Chinese Taiwan Water Works Association, Indian Water Works Association, Korean Water and Waste Water Association, Malaysian Water Association, Thai Waterworks Association, Water Services Association of Australia). The Philippine Water Works Association joined in 2019.

Describe your family and outside interests: While working overseas, I recognized that there are many things I do not know about Japan. Recently, I traveled around Japan with my family – wife Miyuki, daughters Amane and Minori (pictured right) -- on holidays.