Centennial Award Winner Marla Smith-Nelson Featured on the Today Show

Marla Smith-Nilson on the Today Show in September 2013.

Marla Smith-Nilson, an advocate for clean water in the world’s impoverished areas and the 2007 winner of the Centennial Outstanding Young Alumni Award, was featured on the Today Show. The segment, which aired September 2013, honored women who are making a difference in the world. A 1991 CEEM graduate, Marla’s time at the UA was busy, as she held a consistent GPA, served as President of the ASCE student chapter, and traveled across the world as a requirement of her awarded Flinn Scholarship. These travels are what ultimately inspired her interest in water sanitation in developing countries.  Women and girls spend significant amounts of time transporting clean water back to their villages, walking sometimes for miles with heavy containers of water. The women and girls have no time to go to school or take care of their families, and thousands of children are perishing. According to Marla, the result of this crisis “is devastating.” Marla has brought hands-on field experience with water supply projects to these countries, and has implemented water projects in nearly 200 villages since 1991. The number of people these project s have benefited stands around 100,000 and continues to grow each day as the projects are ongoing. Marla currently serves as the Executive Director of Water 1st International, a non-profit organization that was founded in 2005. The organization raises awareness of issues with water supply and sanitation in developing countries and raises funds to implement water and sanitation projects. Water 1st has implemented 733 water systems in four countries under Marla’s leadership. These efforts, as well as Marla’s achievements as an engineer, earned her the nomination for the Centennial Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Marla continues to be an inspiration here at CEEM and far beyond. View the video segment here.



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