Lytton First Nation’s Warren Brown was recognized in the Water/Wastewater Operator category of the 2021 Water’s Next Awards. Brown also received additional recognition as the Water Steward of the Year.
“Warren’s dedication to operator advocacy is recognized not only by his community of Lytton First Nation, but also fellow colleagues in the water industry.”
That’s what Candance Cook, research engineer at RESEAU CMI, had to say when she nominated Warren Brown for the Water/Wastewater Operator award. The Water’s Next Selection Committee also echoed Candace’s sentiments, which is why Brown was awarded both the Water/Wastewater Operator award and the Water Steward of the Year award at this year’s celebration.
As the operations manager for the community of Lytton First Nation, Brown is directly responsible for providing safe drinking water/wastewater services. He is also responsible for road maintenance for 13 drinking water systems.
While he juggles many tasks in delivering these services, they make up one part of the work he does on a day-to-day basis. Brown is an advocate for Indigenous water operators in Canada. His commitment to raising awareness of issues faced by water operators has reached international news outlets, including the BBC.
In addition to regular requests for Brown to join committees and the numerous invitations to work with neighbouring Indigenous communities, his insight and expertise is sought by many high-profile academic institutions. Most recently, Brown was asked to be the host for a series of water operations training videos. These videos, in turn, have been distributed to Indigenous operators across Canada.
Beyond his day-to-day work, Brown never hesitates to assist community members with home repairs and maintenance. He often carves out time each day to give educational tours of his facilities to students and interested residents. Going even further, Brown recently developed a summer program to foster practical maintenance skills for youth participants.
“This job is not about money,” comments Brown when reflecting on his busy work life. “I know I’m underpaid and will never be a millionaire. At some point, we realize our importance, and we do this work for our family and community. I can sleep knowing I did the best I can, for them.”
Brown works to inspire the next generation of water leaders and operators through dedicated outreach efforts. As an educator and mentor, his driving goal is to help others gain the understanding and skills needed to thoughtfully improve Indigenous water outcomes and become allies in advocacy.
His efforts have not gone unrecognized. With industry peers and coworkers appreciating Brown’s growing influence in the greater water industry, his colleague, Candace Cook reflects that “the exemplary vision and leadership demonstrated by Brown has laid the foundation for operators to ensure that systematic problems and water inequities become a thing of the past in Indigenous communities.”
In speaking to Brown one will quickly come to understand that his passion rests in working for his people. His stories do not touch on his own successes, but rather are filled with the pride he feels when those around him reach their potential.
This profile was written by Evan Pilkington, a seriously water-obsessed freelance writer, for the July/August 2021 issue of Water Canada.
The nomination period for the 2022 Water’s Next Awards is now open! Learn more about the awards here.