Lauren Livermore NYWEA President Acceptance Speech: Reflect, Connect, Protect

February 17, 2021

Theme 2021: Reflect, Connect, Protect

First of all, thanks again to Senator Stewart-Cousins and Mayor Schenk, your speeches were truly inspirational.

A lot of us have been going through a tough year. And many of those around us are experiencing things most of us here at this ceremony can’t even comprehend, from losing jobs to food insecurity.

We have lost several of our close NYWEA family members, whose absence leaves tiny holes in the organization as well as our hearts.

It is that feeling of togetherness and camaraderie that makes NYWEA so great. We are a family. When we get together in person, it’s like no time has passed. Even in this new hybrid world we are living in, we all come together to support the organization and our peers in a way no other professional society even comes close to doing.

I commend all of you for pivoting on a dime to the new normal we are all still trying to navigate while keeping our sanity. Some of us more adeptly than others. I will admit I am often just hanging by a thread. I’ve realized it might be a steel cable, but I am hanging none-the-less.

What we are doing today will shape our world for years to come. The good things will stick – like why haven’t we been hosting Zoom calls with our high school or college or old work friends all along. The other things, like no handshakes and hugs….I mean, let’s face it, how could NYWEA even hold a conference right now on that fact alone? With all of your involvement and insight, NYWEA will keep evolving and growing, just as it has always done.

As we complete all the things that have to be done, day to day, week to week, I ask you to do one thing – don’t forget your passion – how you got here and what keeps you in the water sector. We all have that story of what inspired us to devote our lives to public health and the environment. Mine can be summed up in two words: Onondaga Lake. How cool is it that I can say that in my career, I have helped in the cleanup of a lake that led me to study Civil Engineering as a kid and motivate me become a professional engineer? I hope our Spring Meeting, whatever form it takes on, is a forum to showcase all of the amazing projects our colleagues have finished over the years to improve Onondaga Lake’s water quality and the quality of life of those living in and visiting the Syracuse area.

I dare you all to revive your passion and share it. With your friends, your family, your acquaintances, your community. Make sure they love and appreciate water as much as you do! Ok, so they don’t have to love it, but hopefully they can at least tell you where their water goes after it is used in their home. I know several of you have heard about my discussions with my captive audiences, a.k.a. running partners, as we go out and back on the trails around Onondaga Lake. And there was no better day than when one of my fellow co-workers described a digester as “cute”. It is gratifying that my passion for all things water (and wastewater) has rubbed off!

2021 is shaping up to be another crazy year, but there is light at the end of the tunnel or shall I say, daylight at the end of the pipe? I guess that could be good or bad depending on where the pipe is leading to. Let’s call it the good way.

As we head into this year as an organization, I implore all of us to be more like water.

So, what do I mean by that?

Just think about it.

Water has the ability to Reflect.

Water has the ability to Protect.

Water has the ability to Connect.


Water in a lake on a calm day reflects the entire world around it through its surface.

We can and should do the same thing – reflect on where we have been and where we are going.

As an organization, I am only the 3rd woman in 93 years to hold the position of president. Let that sink in. If we were together in person, I would say look around the room today. I bet the number of women has probably quadrupled since I started going to the Annual meeting in 2006. And look at where NYWEA is headed, three of the next four leaders who will hold the office of president are women. Reflect on all of the leadership opportunities NYWEA has to offer and get involved if you are not already.

Personally, I reflect upon my husband Seth and my parents (all of whom were able to join this zoom call today – silver linings of the pandemic). Without their love and support, I wouldn’t be here today.

I urge you, again, to rediscover and share your passions, identify and thank your mentors (Bob Kukenberger, Mark Gorthey, Tim Taber and so many others, thank you!), and appreciate the good experiences and the challenges that made you who you are today.


Water has the ability to provide a safe habitat for the organisms living beneath its surface, but also has the power to change everything it touches, whether it be a rock on a river bed or the after effects on a community after an intense storm.

As an organization, we have the power to create change! We have the power to protect those around us and influence the water sector!

….To design and construct projects that protect public health and the environment.

….To uphold high standards in water quality today and research and adapt to the water quality standards of tomorrow.

…To operate and maintain complex, essential water resource recovery facilities 24/7, 365.

….To encourage and mentor the next generation of environmental professionals and have them be a more accurate representation of the diverse populations we serve.

A more diverse water sector that is no longer “out of sight, out of mind”, but in the daily vernacular, will only make us stronger and better able to tackle the unique and ever-changing challenges that face us.


Water is cohesive, it attracts other water molecules to realize its true power.

Similarly for all of us in NYWEA, a writer back in the 1920’s, Ry-uno-suke Satoro, stated “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

I implore you

Go to that virtual happy hour.

Attend that virtual conference.

Connect with NYWEA! Get involved on a committee or connect with your local chapter.

Set up a zoom with that coworker, that colleague, that friend.

Make and keep those connections strong so we can form one cohesive unit, one bond, one water.

And remember who we are striving to protect public health and the environment for – not for us, not our kids, our grandchildren or nieces or nephews…as the Hau-deno-sau-nee (Iroquois) believed, the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.

So again be more like water: Reflect. Protect. Connect

I will leave you with this: We might not know where the future is going to take us, but one thing is for sure, we will all be headed there together.

Thank you all so much for joining the ceremony today and I am so looking forward to the upcoming year serving as your President!

I can’t wait to see you all at the exhibitor networking event at 1:30, the Women of Water Event at 4pm (remember everyone is invited) and a continuation of our amazing technical sessions starting up again tomorrow at 11 am.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as President and have a wonderful day!