The roots of the AWW&WEA were formed in 1931 when a group of 47 met in Fayetteville, Arkansas for two days in February to form the First Annual Arkansas Water Works Conference. It was during that time that the group would decide to form a permanent organization for the purpose of holding annual conferences for those actively engaged in the design, management, operation and control of water works systems.
In the beginning, Association growth was slow. The 1935 conference, which was a joint program with Oklahoma Water and Sewage Conference, reported having 53 registered attendees. The conference name was then changed to the Arkansas Water and Sewer Conference. The following year, the conference was held in Fort Smith and was a joint program with the Southwest Section of American Water Works Association.
The 9th Annual AW&S Conference was held in Fayetteville in 1939 with 88 registrants representing 50 cities. A plan was developed for holding district water and sewage state-wide meetings throughout the year. The program was designed particularly to bring the work of the Conference to many of the smaller Arkansas cities and towns. A Licensing Committee was appointed to prepare details of a tentative future voluntary licensing plan for water plant operators. The Licensing Committee report was submitted and the plan was adopted.
By 1940 attendance had reached 103. Districts had been formed throughout the state and a report on the first eight district meetings was given at the conference. License exams were first given at the 11th Annual Conference in 1941 to 42 attendees. Registration fees of $2 for manufacturers' representatives and $1 for members were first charged in 1942. The fees were to be used in preparation of the proceedings and other expenses of the conference, supplementing the amount supplied by the sponsors.
Activities surrounding World War II slowed the growth of the conference and development of the districts. The conference was not held in 1945. The conference resumed in 1946 with 98 registered attendees and the "Federation of Sewage Works Association" section was established.
In 1947 the 16th Annual Arkansas Water and Sewage Conference reported that Arkansas now had 182 public water supplies and 111 sewage disposal plants. December 1947 saw the rebirth of the districts as we know them today with the forming of the Eastern District. The pacesetting Eastern District became the pattern for the rest of the districts. The districts have since grown from one to nine and hold almost 100 meetings throughout the year, meeting in almost every city in the state.
One hundred sixty attendees registered for the 1949 conference. Three school sessions were held on water purification, meters and distribution systems. This was the beginning of the conference short school technical sessions. The Sewage Works Constitution was amended to include annual dues. The fees were set at $5 for Active Members and $15 for Corporate Members.
In 1950 the 19th Arkansas Water and Sewage Conference attendance had risen to 193. It was at this conference that a committee was appointed to prepare a plan for awarding the use of properly posted highway signs stating "Safe Public Water Supply" to those cities whose water met minimum standards. The work of this conference ended in 1952 when the Arkansas State Board of Health set requirements under which it would authorize placement of water approved signs. It should be noted that in Arkansas these signs indicate that the system so designated not only far exceeds the criteria for safe water, but is also an excellent system in all areas.
In 1951 the conference name was changed to Arkansas Water and Sewage Conference and Short Course. The 21st annual conference was held for the first time in Hot Springs and had a registered attendance of 182.
In 1967 the 30th Annual Conference was held in Little Rock at the Marion Hotel. The conference set a new attendance record of 354 people. It was reported that there were 236 public water supplies serving 885,000 people and 141 public sewage systems serving 750,000 people. The 1974 conference was held in Hot Springs with attendance in excess of 700. Dale Bumpers, then Governor of Arkansas, and former Senator William Fulbright addressed the conference attendees.
The 44th Annual Arkansas Water Works and Pollution Control Conference and Short School, held April 1975 at the Camelot Inn in Little Rock, was the first conference to initiate a program theme. The theme "Tools for Better Service" was selected to focus on providing quality service with the use of efficient tools.
The AWW&WEA Annual Conference has grown considerably from the vision of the forty-seven who first started the water flowing to the prominent water-professional Association and Conference that it is today. We salute the pioneering insight and the committed fortitude of the Arkansas Water Works and Water Environment Association members for their dedicated service to the Association.
Adopted Resolution of Incorporation - Arkansas Water Works Conference 1931
Be it resolved, that it is the sense of this meeting that a permanent organization be formed for the purpose of holding annual conferences for those actively engaged in the design, management, operation and control of water works systems to be known as the Arkansas Water Works Conference. That meeting shall be held at least once a year at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in co-operation with the Extension Department and College of Engineering of the University and the State Board of Health. That the officers of the conference shall consist of a chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary. There shall be an executive committee, consisting of the officers and three others, one consisting of a member of the faculty of the College of Engineering of the University of Arkansas, one from the group of privately owned plants and one from the group of municipally owned plants. That the officers and members of the executive committee shall be elected on the last day of the annual conference and shall hold office until the election and acceptance of their successors. The chairman shall appoint a committee of three which shall submit to the conference nominations for the officers and membership of the executive committee.