17,000-Plus Seek the Latest in Water Science and Technology at WEFTEC 2012

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 — Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

“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 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 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.
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