Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.
Water, Race, and Service

Januay 17, 2023

Yesterday, I took the time to reflect on #MLKDay - thinking about the man, the movement, and why Dr. King means so much to so many people - as well as how issues of race, justice and equity have emerged in the Water Community and how WaterCitizen can best be of service to that community.

Water, Civil Rights, Racial Equity and Justice

Central to Dr. King's life was, of course, his work on Civil Rights. From segregated water fountains to firehoses used to blast school children protesting for their rights ... from rivers that served as part of the Underground Railroad to bridges crossed for voter registration ... bodies of water, access to drinking water and sanitation has been a central issue in Civil Rights for Black Americans.

Over the last 15 years or so, there have been some major new developments in Civil Rights, with new approaches using #BLM hashtags and #BlackLinkedin which Dr. King never had - as well as good old fashioned grassroots organizing and collaborations - leading to several "firsts" for Black Leadership in the Water Community, and new commitments to Environmental Justice and Equity within the Water Workforce and the communities we serve.

When we started covering water conferences and writing articles for WaterCitizen News, the emergence of new Black Water Leaders was one of the issues we asked about, although we were often told by Water Industry Leaders that, as scientists and engineers, "We don't see race! We don't see color! We don't see gender!" “Diversity” events were supposed to be for networking and success stories, not discussion of issues or opportunities for improvement. While it was OK for us to provide historic perspectives such as our "Water and the Civil Rights Movement" piece, we were discouraged from calling attention to the lack of diversity in Water Leadership.

Since the start of the Pandemic - between the killing of George Floyd and disparity of impacts of COVID on Black Populations - combined with several recent by the US Water Alliance, new Water Equity practices in environmental consulting firms, and new Environmental Justice 40 Initiative in the Federal Government - there have been dramatic shifts in both the faces of the speakers and the topics of discussion at both the virtual conferences during the pandemic lockdown and especially since in-person conferences started again in the 2021. 

Over the holidays, my team and I have downloaded and reviewed dozens of interview videos, photos and session notes from these events. In February 2023, WaterCitizen is kicking off a new Monthly Special Issue filled with multimedia feature pieces on Water, Race, Equity and Justice.

If you'd like to help compile or be interviewed for WaterCitizen's February 2023 Special Issue on Water, Race, Equity, and Justice, please contact me at

MLK on Service and on Bringing People Together

Part of Dr. King's universal appeal was that - in addition to his work on Civil Rights, Racial and Economic Justice, he was a Minister who spoke of Love, of Character, and of Service - which we find in abundance within the Water Community, with many water professionals and active volunteers quietly doing their work - drilling wells and collecting samples and running models and writing permits and monitoring legislation - to ensure safe, reliable water supplies, a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

"No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

Dr. King was also a skilled negotiator and facilitator, educating and engaging and enrolling others in his cause.

"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."

One of the main reasons we started WaterCitizen - as Water Planning and Policy experts - was to explore and develop new ways of leveraging the internet as a place for online and virtual communities and events - developing our skills as online group moderators and podcast hosts and virtual event facilitators to "improve the Water Information Infrastructure" and "Elevate the Water Dialogue" - making participation in Dialogues more accessible, even for those who don't have the time or money or freedom to travel to the many in-person meetings and events that are part of work in Water.

Coming this year will be a Virtual Summit as a Side Event for the UN Water Conference in New York City and a WaterCitizen Dialogues group where we'll host private, moderated discussions on the topics we cover in our Monthly Special Edition e-Magazine, along with additional access to live conversations with newsmakers on a wide range of topics that are important to "people passionate about water."

With these new programs, we look forward to serving the Water Community and increasing opportunities for you to be a part of the discussion! Watch for more information coming soon!