One Water Leadership Insights

A Conversation with Adam Krantz, CEO, NACWA and Radhika Fox, CEO, US Water Alliance

Radhika: Adam, I first met you when I worked at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (a member of NACWA), and then we both started in our current posts in the Fall of 2015. It’s been incredible to see what you’ve accomplished in the past four years, and I’m fortunate to call you a friend and colleague. Can you introduce yourself without using your professional title or organization?
Adam: First and foremost, I am a father and husband—I have two children, aged 12 and 10. I have a staff of around 26 people, and these are my families—my work family and my home family. They both are very important to me. I also love riding my bike, jogging, and I love the water. I go fishing with my kids and I love being able to recreate on the water.

Radhika: Congratulations to you and the whole NACWA team on the organization’s 50th anniversary. How has NACWA evolved as an organization over the past five decades?
Adam: It’s been an amazing evolution. If you chart the growth of this country, the development of our drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, along with the regulations of those systems, it is one of the greatest public health achievements in the nation’s and the world’s history. And over the past 50 years, NACWA has played a big role in shaping those regulations and sharing best practices among utility executives. Now we’re seeing new themes emerge, and I think one of the biggest indicators of our progress is the network of incredibly sophisticated leaders in the sector who are learning from one another.

Radhika: Some of those in our network may not know that NACWA founded the US Water Alliance about a decade ago. Can you talk a little bit about what inspired you to create the Alliance?
Adam: NACWA is a trade association and we represent clean water utilities across the country. And, at their behest, we realized that we needed to think in a more integrated way about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. Those siloes were holding us back as a sector. We found that there was a lot of entrenchment in the sector, and we wanted to encourage water management at the watershed level.

The Alliance was created to be a platform for all the water associations to come together and leverage our resources and respective strengths. We then realized that we needed to establish an independence of thought and leadership within the Alliance. I think it’s really important to note that while NACWA founded the Alliance, that fact is much less significant than where you and the Alliance team have taken it over the past five years. It’s incredible. It’s been a high point of my professional career to see the Alliance become an authoritative and independent body of its own.

Radhika: What does “One Water” mean to you?
Adam: One Water goes back to the notion of needing everyone to work together outside of their siloes. In the One Water framework, the role of the utility workforce is to work together—drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater teams all envisioning themselves as one unit even if they are physically separate systems. One Water also means viewing the community as a core constituency and working to bring them the highest value service possible.

Radhika: A critical part of One Water work is cross-sector partnerships, how are you collaborating across sectors to leverage resources and expertise for a successful response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Adam: It’s only by coming together that we can find a pathway to success.  During this crisis, we’ve seen an increase in political support for the water sector. While legislation providing financial assistance to water utilities, and to low-income water rate payers, is still pending, this public and political will for investment is an important first step towards providing funding that helps us do our job of guaranteeing public health for all. My hope is that when we emerge from this pandemic, the federal government will provide assistance to low-income water rate payers, just like they do for energy or food payment through LIHEAP and SNAP. I also hope that the government can invest in those that have lost their jobs by investing in public works. Investing in the water sector can create lasting benefits—together we can promote public health, environmental well-being, and climate resilience.

Radhika: You’ve been based in the DC area for a while—what’s your favorite Smithsonian museum to visit?
Adam: Well my kids love the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, so that’s a regular for our family, but for my personal favorite I’m going to have to go with a non-Smithsonian Museum—The Phillips Collection. It’s a small museum that has a lot of impressionists in the collection, but they also feature rotating shows. It’s just a very beautifully done museum.   

Radhika: What have you read recently that has influenced your leadership style? Or just rocked your boat?
Adam: One of my favorites is Winston Churchill’s six-part series on World War II. I love reading it because it’s told from the perspective of someone who played a very important role in history, but I also really love the masterful use of language. Most people don’t know this, but Churchill actually won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and I really appreciate how poetic his writing is. Another fun fact is that I studied English Literature in graduate school, so I enjoy Churchill’s work both from a leadership and a literary perspective.