Former NACWA CEO, ‘one water’ visionary Ken Kirk passes away

Ken Kirk, a former CEO and executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and a longtime water advocate and leader, passed away on March 18.

“It is with a heavy heart that we share the sad news that Ken Kirk, NACWA former Executive Director and CEO, passed peacefully Monday evening at his home in Santa Fe – the city he adored,” the association said in a statement. “His wife Aurora and son David were with him throughout and he expressed appreciation for the support that NACWA and his many friends in the sector provided during this difficult time.

“Ken was a terrific leader, friend, and mentor, and he worked tirelessly for more than three decades to help build NACWA into the organization it is today. We are all part of this legacy, and it is our honor to work with all of you to build on this legacy and the lofty expectations he had to make “one water” a reality and to position water as a top policy priority.  

“Ken truly loved NACWA and his colleagues in the water sector, and his many friends and colleagues will miss him greatly.”

Kirk’s career began in 1973 as an attorney and advisor in the Office of Legislation for the newly formed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to his efforts leading NACWA, Kirk also played a role in the founding of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). As a signer of AMWA’s original charter, he helped staff its first membership and board meetings, represented its interests on Capitol Hill and at EPA, and often functioned as its de facto executive director in the organization’s early days.

Through his involvement and leadership in both organizations, Kirk was instrumental in directing legislative, regulatory and legal initiatives related to the Clean Water Act. He was a visionary in fostering the notion of “one water,” a term which he coined, encouraging water management through holistic approaches and integrated planning.

Kirk’s obituary, written by his son David, is available here, and includes opportunities to donate to some of the institutions most important in Kirk’s life for those who would like to honor his memory.

Ken Kirk Steers NACWA to National Leadership in Clean Water Advocacy

AWWA CEO David LaFrance also issued the following statement:

“The American Water Works Association lost a longtime friend and ally in the water community on Monday with the passing of Ken Kirk, the past Executive Director and CEO of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA). Our hearts are with Ken’s wife, Aurora, his son David, and everyone who knew and loved him.

“Ken was a natural leader for his organization – the first and original CEO of NACWA. He had great vision and cared deeply about the importance of clean water. On a personal note, I learned a great deal about water leadership from Ken as I began my career at AWWA in 2010. 

“The water community is a much better place thanks to Ken’s dedication and spirit of collaboration over the years. He will be missed.”


Sources: NACWA, AMWA, AWWA

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