Special sessions focus on innovation and water resource management
A total of 17,452 water professionals and 980 exhibiting companies from around the world attended WEFTEC 2012—the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) 85th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference—last week in New Orleans, La.
“The amazing energy level at WEFTEC this year emphasizes the transformation that is occurring within our industry,” said WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger, “We couldn’t be more pleased that so many water professionals continually look to WEF for leadership and the best in water science and technology during this time of evolution.”
To that end, last week’s conference offered attendees their choice of more than 1,000 presentations in 148 technical sessions, 24 workshops, seven local facility tours, as well as several high profile events. Key sessions and workshops featured in-depth topics such as boosting biogas to energy, utility funding and financing strategies, trenchless rehabilitation technology, water reuse planning, wet weather treatment, and green infrastructure.
Of particular interest was the high-powered water leaders session “Rethinking Water Services: Navigating Our Water’s Future,” which featured an opening keynote address by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. Following Jackson’s address, a panel of leaders in the water community’s academic, technology, and public service sectors shared their perspectives on current and future challenges faced by the water industry and how best to meet them. Facilitated by WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger, the panel included George Hawkins (DC Water), Jeff Sterba (American Water Works Company, Inc.), Gretchen McClain (Xylem, Inc.), and Kala Vairavamoorthy (University of South Florida’s Patel School of Global Sustainability).
Another highlight was the Utility Executives Forum, which picked up the subject about a 20-year vision for the future role of water utilities in communities from the “Rethinking Water Services” session. A facilitated discussion considered in practical terms how the water sector can revolutionize thinking and adopt new ideas and innovations more broadly and consistently, resulting in better and sustainable service at lower costs. Panelists included George Hawkins (DC Water), Tony Parrott and David St. Pierre (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago), and Karen Pallansch (Alexandria Renew Enterprises).
At Monday’s popular and well-attended Opening General Session, attendees were greeted by a special video welcome from WEF that was followed by an energetic presentation from keynote presenter Jim Carroll. A respected author, columnist, media commentator, and consultant, Carroll revved up the crowd in the New Orleans Theater as he illustrated how the innovations of the future will be mastered by the individuals and companies that are the most agile. The high-profile program also featured Eger and WEF President Matt Bond who recognized the 2012 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize winner Kunal Sangani and the international winners Nicholas Lim and Marshall Chua Cham of Singapore. U.S. finalists Taide Ding, Ajay Krishnan, and Natalie Ng were also recognized.
On Tuesday, Bond ceremoniously “passed the gavel” of Federation leadership to incoming President Cordell Samuels and inducted the 2012-2013 WEF Officers and Board of Trustees. The ceremony culminated with the remaining awards presentations in recognition of the outstanding achievements of the most talented and dedicated professionals in the water quality community.
Other conference highlights included a new Innovation Pavilion, which featured finalists and winners of the Imagine H2O Water Innovation Prize and the 2012 BlueTech Forum Showcase; “Bogging in the Big Easy”—construction of a wetlands in New Orleans’ City Park by WEF’s Students and Young Professionals Committee; the 2012 WEF Student Design Competition; the AEESP/WEF Scientists’ Luncheon, which featured a presentation about environmental nanotechnology from Dr. Mark R. Wiesner of Duke University; and the 2012 Operations Challenge Competition, which was won for the third consecutive year by defending champions Terminal Velocity from the Virginia Water Environment Association.
WEFTEC is recognized as the world’s largest annual water quality event and provides the latest technologies and services for water environment preservation, restoration, and sustainability. WEFTEC 2012 was held at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, September 29 to October 3.
Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 36,000 individual members and 75 affiliated Member Associations representing water quality professionals around the world. WEF members, Member Associations and staff proudly work to achieve our mission to provide bold leadership, champion innovation, connect water professionals, and leverage knowledge to support clean and safe water worldwide. For more information, visit www.wef.org.