Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

A dream to bring clean water to the world

Travel taught water plant manager Jesse Skwaruk not to take drinking water for granted

It wasn’t until he began travelling the world that Jesse Skwaruk truly understood the value of clean water.

In Spain in 2004, he stayed at a small hostel where guests were instructed to drink bottled water because the tap water was salted from the sea. The experience got him thinking about how most Canadians take potable water for granted.

“We turn on the tap and we have beautiful, clean, flowing water 24 hours a day. In other places, people aren’t that fortunate,” says Skwaruk, a 2013 graduate of NAIT’s Water and Wastewater Technician program. “It’s not until you don’t have water that you realize the importance of it.”

In pursuit of a dream job

He has since travelled to several developing countries, including Honduras, where he lived in a jungle community of 200 people. Running water was only available for 15 minutes in the morning and evening. To get the water they needed to drink, cook and wash, the people used many sources – rain, wells, the ocean and bottled water.

His experiences inspired him to study water politics and policy in university, where he earned an undergrad degree in political science and a Master’s degree in geography. To pursue his dream job in water treatment and management, he came to NAIT.

“It was about getting that practical experience along with the theoretical experience,” he explains.

A changed perspective

Skwaruk, 35, now works for Epcor, where he manages a water treatment plant, testing and treating drinking water. He continues to travel the world, volunteering with development agencies that help provide clean water for communities in need.

Most recently, he was in Bolivia with the non-profit organization Water for People, which works to bring clean water and sanitation to people in developing countries. In January, he hopes to go to India with the same organization.

“My perspective has changed quite a lot since I’ve been working in water and wastewater,” he says. “Looking at the water that comes out of our tap and knowing the amount of work and resources that need to go into it to produce clean, healthy, safe water – it’s really an incredible thing.”