The 5 Benefits of an OSAW Award — And Why Your Organization Should Apply Today

The 5 Benefits of an OSAW Award — And Why Your Organization Should Apply Today

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Applying for an award may not … at first glance … come to the top of your “to do” list. Maybe you think it’s too self-serving; don’t need public recognition; not enough time to complete the application. 

However, it might be worth re-considering. 

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) recently spoke with three industry leaders whose companies recently received awards. They agree that applying for awards is the first step toward being recognized, which is beneficial in numerous ways. 

Every year, NHA recognizes organizations as “Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters.” Applications for this awards program – referred to as OSAW – are due June 24, 2022. Any company or organization can apply – being a member of NHA is not a requirement. 

I recently talked with several former recipients of OSAW awards to find out why receiving the OSAW award matters (and why spending time on completing the application was worth it!). 

Their answers informed the “Top 5 benefits of applying for the award,” which you can read about below, and they provided compelling reasons to any organization considering an application. 


The importance of having “shareables” detailing your organization’s accomplishments cannot be underscored. Storytelling should be part of any organization’s agenda because it communicates the otherwise unheard and unseen work taking place every year, and the OSAW award can be part of that narrative.  

The OSAW award is a way to elevate your projects to a highly visible platform, where your work can gain recognition from peer organizations and external parties. 

Here’s a specific example of how this works: This past April, the North Yuba Forest Partnership, which Yuba Water Agency is a part of, received $34.8 million for continuation of their forest restoration work in the Yuba River watershed. Willie Whittlesey, general manager of the Yuba Water Agency, believes OSAW had a role to play in elevating the agency’s profile: “When we first got the [OSAW] award from NHA, that was our only real public acknowledgement.” 

Photo from Yuba Water Agency


“Hydro generators go beyond their core business to benefit their constituents, and we need to communicate this extra effort to get external validation,” said Willie Whittlesey of Yuba Water Agency, and he couldn’t be more correct.  

Capturing and publicizing the way your organization supports the community is a worthy endeavor, but it’s an undertaking. By receiving an OSAW award, some of that effort is done for you. The OSAW award can be touted as a public acknowledgement of work made manifest, and it carries the weight of a nationally recognized association, NHA, behind it. The community doesn’t know about your good work unless you tell them. 

Jim Chandler, environmental manager at Idaho Power, knows the importance of OSAW as a means of embracing community development: “We have promoted [OSAW award] externally and internally to make others aware of the work we’re doing a national level, and it builds support within the community. [OSAW] overall demonstrates that it’s more than words on paper; we are putting actions on the ground that show our commitments.”

Photo from Idaho Power Company


One of the binding themes linking all three of NHA’s conversations with former OSAW recipients was how the award demonstrates the strength and importance of external, successful partnerships. Not only does OSAW highlight these important team projects, but it acts to provide recognition to the external partners who aided your efforts. By pursuing an OSAW award, your organization can demonstrate to partners, both current and potential, the emphasis you place on relationship development and the conviction you bring to your work. 

Willie Whittlesey, Yuba Water Agency, shared insight into how the agency’s OSAW award captured the unique nature of partnerships that made their work in the Yuba Rivershed possible: “It [OSAW] demonstrates to other users of the resource that you can venture into unique collaborations like watershed resilience. It takes multiple entities to get this done, and we have the Federal Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, non-profits, and local tribes working with us.” 

Jim Chandler, Idaho Power, shared some insight into highlighting his organization’s collaboration with Idaho Fish and Game on the joint development of the Niagara Springs Sturgeon Hatchery: “It [OSAW award] represents 30 years of work toward a common goal with our partner. That was an achievement, and they [Idaho Fish and Game] were part of that recognition.” 


The employees who make an organization’s accomplishments are a critical, yet demonstrating to these people how their efforts resulted in your organization’s success can be a challenge. External recognition from an industry award like OSAW shows employees that their work has reverberations outside of the day-to-day and offers an opportunity to celebrate them for their contributions. Awards like OSAW can also be learning opportunities because not all employees may be aware of the organization’s efforts. Winning an OSAW award can generate conversations about employee goals and inspire your workforce to seek out additional internal opportunities. 

Brad Koehn, chief operating officer of Turlock Irrigation District, echoed the importance of OSAW as a tool for internal promotion: “The [OSAW] award was beneficial to employee morale and recognition internally, including the ability to further the knowledge of what we do. With 450 employees at Turlock, we were able to use the [OSAW award] to foster conversation amongst employees, and it provided internal involvement. We promote a lot of employees from within, and we saw a lot of questions and interest internally after receiving the award – it was an example of being able to highlight employees and assets; specifically, our large hydro at Don Pedro, the carbon free nature of the hydro, and the staff participation. This project was an example of what happens when groups of people work together for a common solution to a common problem.” 

Jim Chandler of Idaho Power echoed similar sentiments: “Within the company, it [the OSAW award] certainly shows people that the work we’re doing in the field provides internal recognition that we’re making a difference.” 


Shaping your work into tools for advocacy can be difficult. Knowing how to leverage your projects, collaborations, and efforts is critical for any organization, but it can be a challenge to capture everything in one presentable, resonant package. The OSAW awards helps with this by showcasing your projects and lending NHA’s recognition of your work to the conversation.  

By vouching for your efforts, the OSAW award can help enhance dialogue when approaching local, state, and national audiences with new projects and proposals. Having industry-wide credibility, and the awards to showcase your merit, is invaluable in demonstrating why your organization is deserving of external support. 

Brad Koehn, Turlock Irrigation District, spoke about how his organization has been utilizing its OSAW award on a state level: “[Turlock] is very active in the legislation in California and this endorsement is being used to leverage us as an industry leader. It can be hard to quantify the benefits because it’s difficult to know whether it moved the needle, but these things [OSAW] matter when you’re in the media spotlight.” 

Photo from Turlock Irrigation District


Each year, the National Hydropower Association seeks out and honors deserving organizations working in various sectors of the waterpower industry – conventional hydro, pumped storage, and marine energy – for their accomplishments and contributions in the following areas: 

  1. Environmental, recreational, or historical enhancement 
  2. Operational excellence 
  3. Public education  

“As the voice of the North American hydro industry, our goal is to showcase the many ways the industry is making a difference in the communities it serves,” says LeRoy Coleman, director of communications for NHA. “By identifying these projects, we can provide policy makers and clean energy influencers with real-life examples of the outstanding work going on across North America’s waterways.” 

If your organization has a project that is deserving of recognition, NHA encourages you to submit an application for a 2022 Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) award by June 1, 2022. 


OSAW Applications are due June 24, 2022. Applicants are not required to be a member of NHA. Click HERE to submit your OSAW application. 

Winners will be notified in July 2022. 

The winners will be announced and recognized at the industry-wide annual Clean Currents conference and tradeshow, occurring this year in Sacramento, California, from October 18-20, 2022.  

To learn more about the OSAW Awards, click HERE to download the 2022 OSAW Applicant Guide for detailed information on eligibility, categories, and helpful hints when applying.