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Guy Carpenter, Newest Member of Our Water Leadership Team, Shares Past, Present, and Future in Water

It was 1990, and Guy Carpenter, with his freshly inked bachelor’s degree in chemistry, was working for an environmental consulting firm as a chemist in a laboratory. Samples would come in from treatment and remediation facilities, and Guy would set about analyzing them and writing up reports. At some point he started to wonder, where do these samples come from, and asked if he could see what the collection process was like. His first assignment? Collecting air and water samples from 22 wastewater treatment plants around California.

Guy's Wastewater Department in 1997, serving 76,000 residents. That’s him on the right.

Guy may not have seen a wastewater treatment plant before, but it only took one visit to hook him—he was enthralled. After moving into a municipal pretreatment program coordinator role, he was promoted to wastewater superintendent at the ripe age of 26. But his work toward building a career in the water and wastewater industry was just beginning. Realizing the value engineering might play in his work, Guy figured he should sign up for some engineering classes and maybe pursue a master’s. Instead, under the mentorship of his public works director, Guy slowly but surely—all while working full time and raising a family—plugged away at pursuing his PE license on his own. In 2006, more than 16 years after graduating from college and well into his career at a civil engineering firm, Guy secured his PE.

Now, a decade and a half later, we’re privileged to welcome Guy to serve as our Vice President of Water Technical Services. While his path may not have been straight-forward, sometimes the most circuitous route to reaching your destination produces the best outcome. With his diverse background and firsthand experience working in the public works sector, Guy is not only a multifaceted and nationally known technical expert, he’s also a fierce advocate for clients, driven to pioneer solutions for their biggest challenges. With this motivation at the forefront of his mind, Guy is ready to push our water team to take their knowledge and innovation beyond the West. This means scaling up the reach of our water engineering experts whose specialties run the gamut—ASR, hydrology, odor control, trenchless technologies, pumping facilities, treatment process…you name it. The ultimate goal? For our team to become your trusted advisor solving challenges for public water clients around the nation.

Last month we sat down to chat with Guy about his vision for our water team and the industry at large. Here’s just a snippet of what he had to say:

Over the years, Guy has enjoyed meeting with members of Congress to advocate for research funding to advance the practice of water reuse, and for loan and grant programs for infrastructure, on behalf of what is now the WateReuse Foundation and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), respectively.

We’re so thrilled you’ve joined the team—why us, and why now?

To be honest, my interest was initially piqued by the huge growth the firm was experiencing and the potential opportunities for innovation and influence that growth represented. As I learned more, I was attracted to the core values and business philosophies. But the deal was sealed once I started meeting people. I immediately saw that, from a personality standpoint, it was a very good fit; I felt like I belonged. I also appreciate the strong focus on technical excellence and client service, as well as humble yet impactful thought-leadership, and the notion that “we keep good company.” Ultimately, the leadership team recognized my value and is giving me a platform to do what I am passionate about.

What emerging technologies and trends in the field of water and wastewater engineering have you most excited right now?

Hands down, data integration and analytics. As engineers, we are trained to incorporate conservatism into our designs and that’s mainly to account for uncertainties. With the various sources of data available to us now, and the computing power afforded us by the cloud—coupled with significant advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence—we can gain insights that increase certainty and help us “right-size” facilities and their components. Harnessing the value of data allows us to help our clients reduce operating costs and maximize the money they have available to spend on capital improvements. It also helps address megatrend issues like operator training, aging infrastructure (asset management), risk/resilience associated with climate change, and management of institutional knowledge.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention potable reuse, too. For 11 years, I was closely involved in the risk mitigation research and policy evolution to support potable reuse, and I’m thrilled to see how successful that practice is becoming as society addresses water scarcity.

How do you stay at the forefront of the everchanging discipline of water and wastewater engineering?

I am an active LinkedIn user, watch webinars and listen to podcasts whenever I can, subscribe to and read industry newsletters, affiliate myself with thought-leaders, and participate in think-tank and technology investment consortiums. I also serve on advisory boards for Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center, and the City of Phoenix Water & Wastewater Rate Advisory Committee.

In November 2012, Guy was elected to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) board of directors, representing Maricopa County. Here he is during the swearing-in ceremony with then Executive Director, David Modeer. The CAWCD board governs the operation of the Central Arizona Project canal, which delivers Colorado River water to municipal, industrial, and agriculture customers over its 330-mile length.

What is something you have not yet accomplished in your career that you’re determined to achieve?

Many years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and created a professional vision, mission, and set of values for myself. One of the overarching premises of the book is to “begin with the end in mind.” My “end” has been to be known as someone who helps solve complex water problems. I have never cared about a title or a salary “end point.” For me, it’s all about being remembered as someone who brings solutions. I don’t know what solutions I haven’t contributed to yet, but I continue to equip myself to be ready to provide them.

And that’s the vision I have for our water team, too; to support our clients in reaching their service goals by growing our technical and design excellence here at the firm, partnering with clients to pilot projects and pioneer solutions together. We want to inspire clients to push the boundaries of innovation as we bring more value to their communities.

Part of how I want to make this vision a reality is supporting our existing staff in leading and being involved in specialty committees, development of industry standards, and relevant research projects. I want to recruit the industry’s most creative and passionate people, some of whom may be undervalued or constrained in their current positions and give them the opportunity and platform to shine.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

I love providing inspiration for career growth and mentoring people. I’m proud of the fact that every position I’ve ever vacated was filled by someone I was supervising. I’m also passionate about water. My car license plate is “H2O GUY,” and I have a very close, perhaps even spiritual, connection with water. What we do is altruistic—we are providing a foundational service to support the quality of everyone’s lives.