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Clean, Safe Water: A Roberts Family Legacy.

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

Published by AWWA.

For five generations, representatives of the Roberts family of Pennsylvania have been pioneers in the water sector and leaders in the American Water Works Association (AWWA). First was Charles V. Roberts of Philadelphia, who in 1889 designed and patented one of the earliest water filters and founded Roberts Filter Manufacturing Co.

“The city had been battling outbreaks of typhoid and cholera, and Charles lost both of his parents to disease,” said Matt Roberts, Charles’ great-great grandson. “He was a young man who was very moved and motivated to develop a solution to help clean water.” (Pictured, Matt Roberts with portrait of Charles V. Roberts)

Over the next 130 years, four more generations led Roberts Filter Manufacturing Co., now Roberts Filter Group. It is the largest family-owned and operated (under continuous family management) water treatment company in the United States.

“Our family’s long history in the water treatment business has been driven by wanting to do something good for humanity,” said Matt Roberts, vice president of marketing and sales with Roberts Filter Group and a member of AWWA’s International Council. “This passion and oral history of supporting clean water has been passed down through the generations and become a part of our core family values.”

The Roberts family’s commitment to advancing the water sector led them to membership in AWWA, beginning with Charles and extending to his son, Jesse; grandson, Charles V. Roberts II; great-grandson, Lee; and great-great grandson, Matt, as well as other family members Nate, John and Jess Roberts. There currently are 10 AWWA members at Roberts Filter.

The founder’s grandson, Charles V. Roberts, was inducted into AWWA's Water Industry Hall of Fame in 1991. Having served on the AWWA board and received the George Fuller Award in 1967, he was instrumental in forming AWWA Sections in Puerto Rico and Quebec.

In 2010, AWWA presented Roberts Filter Group with the “Service to the Water Profession Award,” marking its 100 years of service to AWWA. R. Lee Roberts, current company president and CEO, was inducted into the AWWA Hall of Fame in 2017 after serving AWWA as treasurer, International Council chair, vice chair of the Filter Media Standards Committee, and member of the Technical Education Council and the Water Utility Council. (Pictured from left, Nate, R. Lee and Matt Roberts with portrait of Charles V. Roberts)

Matt Roberts joined AWWA as a 15-year-old high school student while attending an Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) and served on one of the first Young Professionals committees. “I’d been visiting water treatment plants and watching filters being built since childhood,” he said. “As a kid, I always thought it was the coolest technology and I wanted to be part of it.”

Looking forward, Matt Roberts would like to see an increased awareness in communities about the public good that the water sector provides. “Increasing public awareness about emerging contaminants and the impact of our efforts and solutions to improve water is critical,” he said.

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