NWEA History | Founded 1952

The Nebraska Water Environment Association has a rich history of fulfilling its “mission to be a quality organization committed to public education, training and providing leadership in water quality policy development”.

It all began in 1952 as the Nebraska Sewage and Industrial Wastes Association in Hastings, Nebraska at the Clark Hotel.  A few years earlier federal grant funding had become available due to the Water Pollution Control Act, wastewater treatment facilities were needed and people to build and operate them.  The first official membership records are dated 1954 with 46 paid members.  Dues were $8.00.  Mr. Dave Hill who worked for the City of Hastings, Nebraska was elected its first President and Mr. Paul Mousel of McCook, Nebraska was its Secretary/Treasurer. Its original purpose was to improve communications between the engineering community and wastewater treatment plant operators.  In an effort to accomplish that goal the first annual meeting called the Great Plains Sewage Works Design Conference was held in 1956 by then President, William F. Rapp, Jr. of Crete, Nebraska.  That same meeting is held today every spring as the Great Plains Waste Management Conference.  The primary focus is to help communities, engineers and plant operator’s design, build and operate wastewater treatment facilities.  Today there are also 3 other annual meetings the Association sponsors or co-sponsors; the Operator’s Snowball Conference, the Operator’s Heartland Conference and the Fall Conference.  All providing education for wastewater treatment professionals.

In the early 1960’s Nebraska became part of a national group called the Water Pollution Control Federation and voted to change its name to the Nebraska Water Pollution Control Association.  Several other states, groups of states and countries belong to this Federation and are called Member Associations or MA’s.  During that same time period, 12 standing committees were formed along with the first Annual Fall meeting.

Other historical milestones include:

1962 Voluntary Operator Certification Program was administered by the Association until 1991 when certification became mandatory by State law.

In 1978 the first official newsletter, the Effluent Line was published.

1985 the first Heartland Operator’s conference was held to help provide training to plant operators.

1989 until 1996 NWEA participated in the Federation’s Operations Challenge.  Nebraska formed a team by conducting an in-state challenge that then was sent to the annual Federation Challenge and competed with our States.  Those competitions included Pump Maintenance, Laboratory, Safety and Collection System events.

1989 to Present – Children’s Groundwater Festival.  An annual event that the Association’s Public Education Committee participates in to help promote protection of Nebraska’s water environment.

1991 the first Snowball Conference was held in conjunction with the Nebraska League of Municipalities.

1992 the Federation approved a name change to the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Nebraska became the first member association to follow its parent organization.

1996 to Present – Top Op (Operation) Competition is held each year at the Annual meeting.  An event setup very similar to the TV show Jeopardy, where teams are asked questions about wastewater treatment and scored.  Prizes go to the winners.

1997-98 C. Dale Jacobson, P.E.; past Nebraska Association President and long time professional engineer became Federation President.

2006-07 Dr. Mohamed Dahab, Ph.D., P.E.; past Nebraska Association President and Civil Engineering Professor for the University of Nebraska- Lincoln became Federation President.

2011 Implementation of the Operator Training Program.

Today’s Association

The NWEA currently has over 600 members, 19 standing committees, 4 annual meetings, 7 recognition awards, a quarterly newsletter, the web page, a Scholarship Endowment Fund, Membership Directory and annual golf outing.

Within the membership you will find the; Nebraska Wastewater Operators Division, Quarter Century Club and the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers (5 S’s).  Other states or MA’s like ours have their own such groups, the operator division made up of primarily plant operators, the Quarter Century Club made of members of the Federation for 25 years  and the 5 S’s that wear small golden shovels. There is also a Life Membership which requires that an individual be a Federation/NWEA member for 35 or more consecutive years, and are at age 65 or older.

We are also an ongoing contributor to the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF).  A foundation dedicated to improving and finding new technology for wastewater treatment and the protection of the world’s water environment.

The NWEA is always striving to accomplish its mission and make improvements for its members.  One way recently has been the implementation of the new Operator Training program.  An instructor has been hired to travel around the State providing classes on various wastewater topics.

If you have any information you would like to contribute, please contact:

Joe Dabbs at (402) 444-3922 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..