Kansas City, Mo. — David Soll, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recently received the American Public Works Association (APWA) Abel Wolman Award at its 2014 International Public Works Congress & Exposition in Toronto, Canada. Established in 1987, the Abel Wolman Award is presented annually by APWA’s Public Works Historical Society to recognize the best new book published in the field of public works history.
Soll’s book, “Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of the New York Water Supply,” published in 2013 by Cornell University Press, was selected for the award by a committee of public works professionals and scholars. Soll’s book explores the history of New York City’s water system from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, focusing on the geographical, environmental, and political repercussions of the city’s search for more water. Through tracing the evolution of the city’s water conservation efforts and watershed management regime, Soll reveals the great shifts in environmental practices and consciousness that occurred during the twentieth century.
Soll came to the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire from Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., where he was a post-doctoral Environmental Studies Fellow. Soll previously taught at two Boston area universities, Bentley University and Brandeis University. His main environmental focus is on cities and the environment. The publication of Empire of Water follows the history of the water supply of one of the biggest cities in the world. His next research project will focus on the role of trees in the urban environment. His teaching style urges students to think about how their lifestyles tie into larger environmental issues, and he wants students to make connections between systems, like governmental systems and water systems. His expertise in governmental policy and history allows him to shed light on the relationship between scientific evidence and the policy that restricts it.
On receiving the 2014 Abel Wolman Award, Soll said, “I am truly honored that Empire of Water was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Abel Wolman Award. When I review the list of previous winners, it’s clear that I am in excellent company.”
“The award is particularly gratifying because Abel Wolman was an important figure in the development of New York City’s water supply. I have vivid memories of delving into the Abel Wolman Papers at Johns Hopkins University to learn more about the part he played in shaping the city’s water system. Wolman’s involvement with the city’s water supply started in the 1930s. In the 1950s, he chaired a key advisory committee. And, as an octogenarian, Wolman testified as an expert witness on the city’s behalf, an appearance that received prominent coverage in the New York Times. Wolman’s close ties to New York’s water supply make this an especially gratifying award to receive,” Soll said.
“While the recent water shutoff in Toledo, Ohio, was certainly unfortunate, it is my hope that such incidents will persuade the public and policymakers of the need to devote more time, attention, and resources to public works. I hope Empire of Water can also contribute to the important discussion about public works that is so sorely needed. Thank you again for this wonderful recognition,” he added.