Remembering Bill, One Year Later

It’s hard to believe a full year has passed since Urban Fabrick’s Founding Principal, Bill Worthen, tragically died of a heart attack.

I remember him texting me mid-week before his passing, to see if I could attend the inaugural Women in Water Conference on Friday of that same week, January 27, 2017. I suggested attending the next one instead. “Anything I can do to change your mind?,” Bill said in his usual, upbeat tone. That was Bill, insistent and determined. He knew it was a good thing, or maybe he just wanted to attend himself.

Thanks to Bill, I attended the Women in Water Conference last year and was so glad I did. I met inspiring women at the top of their game in water law and policy for our drought-prone State of California, the 6th largest economy in the world. This work was not the voluntarily-sustainable-by-the-1% project-based work I was used to as a sustainable design consultant. The Carlsbad Desalinization Plant, for example, produces 50 million gallons of water per day, offsetting San Diego’s dependence on the Colorado River. The shared stories of climate change in our face, being doubted and triumphing over adversity were meaningful to me.

Bill and I texted throughout that day. We joked that I was at the women’s water conference and he was at the men’s conference, because he was at the ASHRAE Conference in Vegas to keynote a talk on decentralized water reuse systems. I sent him a picture of the ‘binder full of women’ I received that day.  It occurred to me in that moment that Bill was the ultimate feminist. In fact, he was willing to champion anyone who would join his mission for sustainability and share all the knowledge he had acquired in his deep dive into onsite water reuse.

Bill never made it to the keynote in Vegas, I learned on the drive back. The next day I brought a lasagna to Kyle. We stood there in shock, and Kyle said with defiance that he would carry on Bill’s legacy and the work they started together – no question.

Over the past year, Urban Fabrick’s fabulous team have done just that. We are the technical consultants on the first and largest blackwater reuse system in a commercial high-rise in the U.S. Kyle repositioned The Urban Fabrick Collaborative, Urban Fabrick’s non-profit organization that he and Bill started, as the eponymous William J. Worthen Foundation. Tara Lohan of News Deeply, a contact I made at the aforementioned conference, interviewed us for an article on the state of water reuse. And earlier this month under Kyle’s leadership, the William J. Worthen Foundation released the FREE Practical Guide for Onsite Non-potable Water Reuse.

Reflecting on this past year of many conferences and accomplishments, I am grateful for the short time we were able to work with Bill Worthen, and grateful still for the strength, kindness, and humor at work each day, alongside our Chief Morale Officer, #Chloethepitbull. We laugh, huddle and put our heads together for our amazing projects and clients. Most of all, we keep our chins up, because our work matters – and we continue to move projects toward the finish line, connecting policy, practice, and design in Bill’s memory.


Leave a Reply