John Etgen

Bozeman, Mont. — Educating people to understand water has taken on new urgency as global environmental challenges proliferate. World leaders, academics and corporate executives are calling water “the oil of the 21st century”—and unlike oil, water has no substitute. To better address these critical water challenges and honor the diversity of its users worldwide, the Project WET Foundation—the world’s leading water education organization—is announcing a series of changes to its identity, mission and leadership.

Since Project WET was founded in 1984, the WET acronym has stood for “Water Education for Teachers”. WET now means “Water Education Today”, signifying both the importance of tackling water challenges immediately and the impact that Project WET is having in classrooms and far beyond. As part of this change, the organization’s original “apple for the teacher” logo is being replaced with a more inclusive visual identity.

Project WET’s new mission is “Advancing water education to understand global challenges and inspire local solutions”. It reflects the role that effective, action-oriented water education plays in confronting serious environmental issues such as climate change. A new Project WET climate resilience education guide will launch this month, emphasizing the organization’s commitment to inspiring solutions to pressing global challenges.   

New Project WET CEO John EtgenProject WET’s leadership is also changing. Dennis Nelson—who founded Project WET in North Dakota and developed the program into a global leader in water resources education—is retiring as of the end of March. John Etgen, who joined Project WET in 1994, is the new CEO of Project WET.

The former Senior VP and Chief Operating Officer, new CEO John Etgen has led major organizational initiatives throughout his tenure with Project WET, including the development of Project WET’s international network. In 2000, he spearheaded a national day of water festivals in 89 locations for 15,000 people to launch Make a Splash with Project WET. He also managed Project WET’s water quality education program, Healthy Water, Healthy People, and led Project WET’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiative with USAID.

“When Dennis Nelson founded Project WET in North Dakota in 1984, the concept of educating non-technical audiences about water was revolutionary, as was the idea of specifically training teachers to carry out that education,” Etgen said. “As millions of educators have used Project WET’s interactive methods to teach about water, the universality of those methods became clear. Although we will always look to teachers as leaders in Project WET, we know that Project WET works equally well for corporate employees, park rangers, scout troop leaders or anyone else who wants to teach about water using hands-on activities.”

“Moreover, given the seriousness of global issues such as climate and resilience, it’s crucial that Project WET lead the way in encouraging people from all walks of life to teach about water,” he concluded. “When people understand the global challenges of water, they can take action to solve water problems in their communities.”

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