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Innovation and Access: Water Solutions for Underserved Communities

September 21, 2023 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm EDT

We hosted a thought-provoking conversation on water access for underserved communities. Our event co-hosts included Anacostia Riverkeeper, DigDeep, Moonshot Missions, U.S. Water Alliance, Engineers Without Borders-USA, and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership.

In addition to experts representing our co-hosts, Mae Wu, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Water offered remarks about the Biden Administration’s $200 million investment in technical assistance to communities to improve access. The conversation centered around investment in human capacity within communities, infrastructure, engineering, technology, and the need for human-centered design for water projects. Speakers shared inspiring experiences about leveraging existing solutions, improving relationships and the value of sharing knowledge between utilities and communities.

The event emphasized the urgency of this issue, and the opportunity we must pursue together to rise to the challenge of delivering water to communities in need.




Introductory Remarks

  • Dr. Lindsay Birt, Client Solutions Manager, Xylem
  • Boris Martin, CEO, Engineers Without Borders USA
  • Mae Wu, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, EPA


Panel 1 “Water Access and Service Challenges in Historically Underserved Communities”

Moderator: Dr. Lindsay Birt, Client Solutions Manager, Xylem

  • Maranda Saling, Government Affairs and Policy Manager, RCAP
  • Paula Conolly, Director of Local Engagement and Senior Advisor for Distributed Infrastructure, US Water Alliance
  • Edna Primrose, Board Director, DigDeep


Panel 2 “Technology and Engineering Solutions to Improve Water Access, Service, and Community Outcomes”

Moderator: Travis Loop, Founder, waterloop

  • Trey Sherard, Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Riverkeeper
  • Ellie Carley, Program Manager, Engineers Without Borders USA
  • Andrew Kricun, P.E., Managing Director, Moonshot Missions

Event Speakers

Dr. Lindsay Birt

Client Solutions Manager, Xylem

Dr. Lindsay Birt exemplifies what it means to be a leader in One Water. Through her technical expertise in Agricultural and Biological engineering, Dr. Birt fosters innovations in agricultural water, surface water, wastewater and stormwater management. With a “watershed state of mind,” Dr. Birt emphasizes engagement and partnerships with stakeholders across the water sector to achieve comprehensive solutions to pressing water issues. Additionally, she is a staunch advocate for the implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices and initiatives throughout the water world.

Dr. Birt is a 2023 Aspen Institute First Movers Fellow, 2022 Xylem Strategic Leadership Development Program Graduate, 2021 US Water Alliance Outstanding Rising One Water Leader and recipient of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation National Science Foundation award. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Intelligent Water Systems committee for the Illinois Water Environment Association, Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management (SWIM) Center Strategic committee, Xylem sponsorship co-chair for the WEF InFLOW program, member of the One Water Council of US Water Alliance and technical advisor for Current.

Boris Martin

CEO, Engineers Without Borders USA

A longtime and deeply committed member of the Engineers Without Borders worldwide network, Boris comes to EWB-USA from EWB Canada, where he has served in leadership roles since 2010. Boris first learned about EWB at a presentation during his PhD engineering studies and was immediately compelled by the mission. Boris went on to lead his university EWB chapter, organize a large-scale conference, and spend three years in Burkina Faso volunteering.

EWB-USA shares Boris’s belief that engineers play a key role in helping humanity adapt to climate change – but that work can only happen in close collaboration with the impacted communities. Boris’s own track record of building positive, respectful and mutually accountable partnerships mirrors EWB-USA’s long-term commitment to communities that has allowed the organization to understand the deep complexities and nuanced challenges faced by our partners and address these challenges with resilient infrastructure solutions.

Boris grew up in France and completed his engineering degree at INSA de Lyon. He practiced alpinism, rock and ice climbing, as well as skiing throughout his teenage years. Boris went to Canada to learn English as an exchange student and fell in love. Boris and his wife, Alanna, got married after three years together living in Burkina Faso. His engagement gift to her was a live goat as per the local tradition, which Boris points out is much more affordable and sustainable than a diamond. They now have three children together.

While in Africa, Boris and Alanna bore witness both to the tremendous challenge facing families who live from the land they cultivate by hand, and the opportunity and drive of young and talented leaders who want a better future for their country and their community. These experiences have fortified Boris’s commitment to humanitarian engineering, investing in local capacity and leadership, and supporting communities to adapt.

Mae Wu

Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, EPA

Prior to joining EPA, Mae served for two and half years as the Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the US Department of Agriculture. While there, she worked to make the food supply chain more resilient by strengthening local and regional food systems with American Rescue Plan funding. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Mae served as a Senior Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, helping to lead the organization’s health and food work, particularly focused on drinking water, pesticides, toxic chemicals, and antibiotics. She worked on EPA’s Total Coliform Rule negotiated rulemaking effort and served on EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and the National Drinking Water Advisory Council. Mae holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rice University, a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Cambridge, and a law degree from Duke University.

Maranda Saling

Government Affairs and Policy Manager, RCAP

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Maranda most recently joined RCAP from Senator Booker’s office. She formerly owned a PR Firm in Canton, Ohio before transitioning to the political world. She has a Journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and is a very proud Bobcat. Maranda loves traveling extensively and often and playing outside or on a yoga mat somewhere.

Paula Conolly

AICP, Director of Local Engagement and Senior Advisor for Distributed Infrastructure, US Water Alliance

US Water Alliance, a national nonprofit organization advancing policies and programs that build a sustainable water future for all. Paula helps manage local technical assistance and community outreach efforts to support equal access to water services, maximize community and economic development, and build resilient communities. Prior to joining the Alliance, Paula was the Executive Director of the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, a peer learning network of local public sector green infrastructure practitioners. A co-founder of the network, Paula helped build the organization and led the network toward adopting equity and authentic community engagement as tenets of the green infrastructure practice. Before that, she led policy initiatives for Philadelphia’s renowned Green City, Clean Waters program, helping to change “business as usual” to implement over 30 acres of green stormwater infrastructure on vacant lands, parks, streets and private property. She also helped establish a state-of-the art drinking water protection program for the City of Philadelphia, helping to raise over $3M to improve and protect the Schuylkill River Watershed. Paula graduated from the University of Notre Dame. In her free time, Paula enjoys helping her Philadelphia neighborhood get green, yoga, and dancing badly.

Edna Primrose

Board Director, DigDeep

Edna Primrose is Founder and President of Differenza, a consulting firm focused on education, community and workforce development, poverty, and equity. Prior to that, she served as Director of Policy for the Aspen Institute Education and Society Program, and Assistant Administrator for Water and Environmental Programs and Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Agency. She has held executive positions in the public and private sectors, including a 14-year federal career. Ms. Primrose is on Advisory Boards for Project Water Education Today (WET) Foundation, which promotes water education and stewardship; Hampton Roads Ventures LLC, a national community development entity; Labor Mobility Partnerships (LaMP); DigDeep; and Towson University, her alma mater.

Trey Sherard

Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Riverkeeper

Trey grew up in and on the ocean in coastal North Carolina and is now in his twelfth year with Anacostia Riverkeeper. Recognized by River Network as a 2022 River Hero, he is DC Vice-Chair of the Anacostia Watershed Community Advisory Committee, and he continues to serve on the Mayor’s Leadership Council for a Cleaner Anacostia River. He is an experienced community organizer and advocate who has increased engagement and volunteer activity in Anacostia River communities through a wide variety of partnerships. He helped build Anacostia Riverkeeper’s water quality monitoring program, created ARK’s Clean Waterways cleanups series and Friday Night Fishing, manages the eight Bandalong litter traps in DC and MD, runs ARK’s green infrastructure program, and has given most of the Anacostia River Explorer boat tours since that program’s start in 2015. B.S. Biology Duke University, USCG 100-ton Captain on Inland Waters.

Ellie Carley

Program Manager, Engineers Without Borders USA

Ellie oversees program operations through the Community Engineering Corps program, which provides pro-bono engineering and consulting services to underserved communities throughout the US and its territories. Ellie’s previous employment provides a broad range of support; from technical expertise through information and data handling with S&P Global (previously IHS Market) and programmatic operations supporting underserved communities through various nonprofits in the Denver metro area.

Andrew Kricun, P.E.

Managing Director, Moonshot Missions

Andrew Kricun is a Managing Director with Moonshot Missions, a non-profit focused on providing technical assistance to water utilities in underserved communities. He also serves on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He has over 35 years of experience in wastewater and biosolids management, including several years as Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Camden County (NJ) Municipal Utilities Authority. He also served on the board of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for several years and was co-chair of its Environmental Justice and Utility of the Future committees. He graduated with honors from Princeton University with a degree in chemical engineering. He also holds a professional engineer’s license in civil engineering and is a board-certified environmental engineer.

Travis Loop

Founder, waterloop

Travis Loop is the founder, producer, and host of waterloop, a nonprofit media outlet exploring solutions for sustainability and equity in water. He previously worked as communications director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, the Water Environment Federation, and the Chesapeake Bay Program. Travis served as the speechwriter for the Governor of Hawaii and began his career as a newspaper reporter and editor. He is on the board of WATERway NC, a nonprofit that gathers resources to help families in Wilmington, N.C. to maintain water and sewer services.


September 21, 2023
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm EDT


Reservoir Center
301 Water St SE
Washington, 20003 United States
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