This case is used in Darden's "Economics of Water" elective.
It was spring 2009, and George Hawkins had only recently taken the position of CEO and general manager of DC Water. He was trying to turn around the public institution overseeing the failing infrastructure of Washington, DC. He had a conviction that urban living (with a high concentration of people in one location) was one way to build sustainable societies with low energy, water, and carbon footprints. As CEO of a major water and water-treatment company, he wanted to make sustainable societies possible and to help people think about water and wastewater in a more holistic way.
By 2017, DC Water would be raking in awards, and Hawkins would be trying to answer some popular questions wherever he spoke, such as "How did you manage?," and "What could the water industry as a whole learn from your experience?"
It was an open question whether DC Water's success could be replicated, or whether it was specific to DC Water's particular circumstances.