Remember John Cromwell, A River Champion

The clean water community lost a kind, innovative and dedicated colleague with the death of John Cromwell in December. I knew John for a relatively short time – we served together on an Aspen Institute panel on sustainable infrastructure over the course of a year and a half.  At that time, John was in remission from cancer, and I remember thinking how robust he seemed – in spirit and energy. John was working back to a regular running routine and we discussed chi running, a running technique that we had both tried that focuses on form and mindfulness to reduce injuries. Since that time I kept in touch with John regarding the influential Triple Bottom Line assessment that John helped create that illustrates the dynamic values of green infrastructure, a true legacy for rivers and communities. John will be missed by many, including all of us at American Rivers.

– Katherine Baer


In memoriam: John Cromwell

From AWWA –

John Cromwell, managing economist with Stratus Consulting and an expert in economic issues associated with water, died Dec. 22, at the age of 60 after a two and a half-year battle with cancer.

“John is known to many in the water profession for his numerous valuable contributions to regulatory policy, infrastructure renewal, climate change, regional collaborations, green infrastructure, affordability and several other significant challenges facing the water and wastewater community,” said Stratus vice president Bob Raucher.

Cromwell was recognized for helping define the major problems facing the drinking water industry and shaping approaches and solutions, using his expertise in economics and risk management perspectives.

He earned a BS in biology from the University of Maryland in 1972, followed five years later with a BS in economics. In 1980, he received a master’s of policy sciences from the university.

“He was literally and figuratively a library of information on drinking water regulations — he could remember details on an economic analysis for a specific regulation going back a few decades. He was a guiding light in the fog of economics for us non-economists,” said Alan Roberson, AWWA director of federal relations, who worked with Cromwell on several key projects for the Water Industry Technical Action Fund.

“I truly believe his inspired work on ‘Dawn of the Replacement Era’ was game-changing for the industry,” said Elisa Speranza, CH2M HILL OMI president. As asset management “pioneers,” Speranza worked with Cromwell on several WITAF projects, including “Water Infrastructure at a Turning Point: The Road to Sustainable Asset Management.”

“We had a good time speaking and conducting workshops. Sometimes the workshops and our early ‘Nessie Curve’ client meetings were a little chaotic, but John always kept things on an even keel with his calm demeanor and bone-dry wit,” she said.

Cromwell was a key consultant for the US Environmental Protection Agency on cost-benefit analyses for drinking water regulations and aided utilities like the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Sacramento County Regional Sanitation District.

He headed up projects for the Water Research Foundation on competitiveness and reliability and designed the Water Industry Database, which has evolved into AWWA’s WATERSTATS.

A life member of AWWA and a regular contributor the Journal AWWA, Cromwell received three best-paper awards for his work. His most recent article was published as part of Opflow’s special focus on watershed protection this past April. He also presented his work frequently at AWWA conferences.

Cromwell spent 35 years as an environmental economics consultant with a variety of firms, spending his last seven with Stratus Consulting.

Raucher, Roberson and Speranza all remember Cromwell as a friend and inspiration — smart, reliable, fun.

“John was a great person. Those of us privileged to work closely with John through the years will greatly miss him as a warm, caring, and dedicated human being and wonderful friend,” said Raucher.

Roberson recalled their mutual family challenges. “The way he approached raising his two boys. …We commiserated more than once on the challenges in turning boys into men and asked the question, ‘What were they thinking?’ The answer typically was — thinking and young boys typically don’t go together.”

“John was an inspiration on how to be a good man in the face of adversity,” said Roberson.

“He will be dearly missed, but his spirit will live on in our work,” pledged Speranza.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Dec. 30, at the Friends Meeting House in Sandy Springs, Md. Additional information can be found online.