As I write this month’s column, the world is celebrating Earth Day.

On the first Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — 20 million Americans (10% of the U.S. population at the time) took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. That first Earth Day led to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the U.S., including the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many countries soon adopted similar laws, and in 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement into force.

By the time you read this, Earth Day will be over, but the challenges we face today will not: Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and resource depletion are among the critical issues that demand urgent attention. Modern infrastructure must adapt to use sustainable solutions while becoming more resilient to more frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, as well as human-made threats such as terrorist and cyber attacks.

While their work often goes unnoticed by the general public, MEP engineers are instrumental in designing and implementing sustainable solutions that significantly contribute to protecting the environment. From reducing energy consumption to promoting water conservation and ensuring indoor air quality, their contributions resonate far beyond the confines of buildings and structures.

One of the most pressing issues of our generation is water scarcity. However, MEP engineers are uniquely suited to minimizing the stress of water resources and ensuring consistent access to them. Newer technologies such as rainwater harvesting and water reuse systems are becoming more widely accepted solutions across the U.S., especially in water-stressed areas.

Engineers need to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and sustainable design practices. Two in-person education events are coming up this month and should be on your radar. The first is ASPE’s Green Plumbing Design (GPD) Workshop — the first in-person GPD workshop offered in years — will be held May 16-17 at ASPE’s headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. The two-day workshop in Chicago will cover: residential plumbing conservation measures; efficient solar-heated water design and installation; water-efficient technology measures; commercial and domestic plumbing inspection reports; calculations; and sustainable product selection.

The second event is the 8th biannual Emerging Water Technology Symposium, which will take place May 14-15 in Scottsdale, Arizona. EWTS attendees will discover ideas and approaches about emerging technologies that benefit drinking water and wastewater systems, improve efficiency, and preserve public health. Of particular interest is how these new technologies help cope with drought, reduce carbon emissions, and contribute to overall water sustainability. This year’s theme will focus on the nexus between sustainability and safety while avoiding unintended consequences of each.

View the full schedule here.

I was fortunate enough to attend the last EWTS two years ago in Texas, and I’m really looking forward to this year’s event in a few weeks. The topics are interesting and extremely relevant to the challenges the industry faces today. I hope to see you there!