Working in the Northwest’s Water Sector: Our Clean Water Heroes

Working in the Northwest’s Water Sector: Our Clean Water Heroes

By Carrie Sanneman, Clean Water Program Manager


carrie Sanneman staff photo

Carrie Sanneman, Willamette Partnership Clean Water Program Manager

I may be biased, but I think working in water is the best. Often we take for granted the millions of people who work to make sure we have access to clean water and keep our rivers, streams, and fish healthy. The challenges people working in the water sector face are becoming increasingly complex as the Pacific Northwest faces billions of dollars in investments to update its water infrastructure to serve growing cities, address a changing climate, and restore freshwater systems.

This year, Willamette Partnership and Portland State University’s Center for Public Service, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Infrastructurewill be launching a workforce needs assessment for the Northwest’s water utility sector to learn how we can recruit and prepare workers for the infrastructure challenges of our future.

The results will help utilities prepare to meet the challenges of tomorrow. They will go to workforce development boards, technical training programs, universities, and utilities to strengthen the pipeline that attracts talented Northwest workers to good jobs in the water sector.

In honor of this exciting work, we want to appreciate just a few of our clean water heroes from across the Northwest and what drives them to work in water.


Cassie Cohen, Portland Harbor Community Coalition Coordinator

Portland, Ore.

cassie cohen

Cassie Cohen

“I was born near the Willamette River. I am concerned that women of childbearing age and pregnant women are told they cannot eat a single resident fish from the Portland Harbor–a 10 mile stretch of the river. Portland Harbor Community Coalition represents Native people, Black/African Americans, immigrants, refugees, and houseless people of all backgrounds in the billion-dollar federal cleanup of the Willamette River superfund site and has been working since 2012. I want to ensure that the contaminated river is cleaned up and that impacted communities benefit from the harbor cleanup process and future redevelopment.”

work in water northwest, cassie cohen

Portland Harbor Community Coalition and community partners held a press conference on the steps of Portland City Hall calling for Trump’s EPA to move forward with the Portland Harbor cleanup plan. / Photo courtesy of Cassie Cohen.

Roy Iwai, work in water

Roy Iwai, Multnomah County, Department of Community Services, Water Resources Specialist 

Portland, Ore.

“I am inspired to work in our urban streams, because we have many fish species in the streams that run through our cities and counties. These fish are resilient and we can help them thrive, not merely survive. I believe there is a future where healthy streams and healthy cities can exist together.”

Mami Hara, Seattle Public Utilities, Director

Seattle, Wash. 

“Water is essential to life and access to this resource is a human right.

“Like so many of my colleagues, I work in water because everyone should have access to safe, equitable and affordable water, stormwater and sanitary services.

“My team and I also work in water to achieve the many important social and environmental benefits that can be gained through innovative and sustainable water management. It is a privilege to part of a dedicated team – and network of water leaders – seeking to address our water challenges in meaningful ways, improving the quality of life for the communities we serve, and striving for a sustainable water future for all.”

Mami Hara Seattle Public Utilities

Todd Miller, Development & Public Works Department, Environmental Services Division, Environmental Management Analyst

City of Springfield, Ore. 

“I appreciate the way natural systems cycle – shaping, regenerating, repurposing. My career in water resources and the environment is largely motivated by how the human community interacts with those systems, and how both the human environment and the natural environment are better sustained through these effective relationships. This drives my current enthusiasm for collaborative, watershed-based initiatives that promote the long-term sustainability of healthy ecosystems and clean water.”

Infrastructure NEXT

The workforce needs assessment is part of the Infrastructure NEXT project, which will also provide technical assistance to a range of innovative infrastructure projects, like multi-use regional stormwater parks and smarter power grids. Sign up for the Infrastructure NEXT Workforce email list to receive updates and important information about this project.

Leave us a comment and tell how why you work in water!

Learn more about the Infrastructure-Next Project.

Carrie Sanneman was Willamette Partnership’s Clean Water Program Manager. She specializes in collaboration for clean water and natural infrastructure. Carrie holds an interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School and Bachelors of Science in Biology and Environmental Studies from Iowa State University.


  1. John Marshall 6 years ago

    Very encouraging to see things moving so far along in the right direction!

    • Thank you, we’re excited to explore this important topic and support the utilities that support clean water everyday. ~ Carrie Sanneman

  2. Chris McCord 6 years ago

    So very excited to see this project move forward. Addressing the water sector workforce gap – an avoidable crisis that we will now address by laying the foundation for tomorrow.


    • Thank you for your work, Chris. I look forward to connecting soon so that our efforts can build off each other. ~ Carrie Sanneman

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