Record-setting numbers of 21,950 attendees and 1,111 companies using 290,000 net sq ft of exhibit space have designated WEFTEC.08 — the Water Environment Federation’s 81st annual Technical Exhibition and Conference — as the largest event in its history.

The previous records of 19,929 attendees, 1,017 companies and 268,405 net sq ft of floor space were set at WEFTEC.07 in San Diego.

The conference, held Oct. 19-22 in Chicago, was the premier gathering of water environment professionals that offered the most dynamic educational and training experience in WEFTEC’s history with 31 workshops, 115 technical sessions and 10 facility tours that addressed the timeliest issues in water, wastewater treatment, stormwater management, energy, green initiatives, science, research, and legislative and political issues.

Professor John Anthony Allan anchored a well-balanced opening general session program with a keynote address featuring the concept of “virtual water,” which measures how water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products. This concept has major impacts on global trade policy and research, especially in water-scarce regions and has redefined discourse in water policy and management. See the Water Blog at www.wef.org.

President Adam Zabinski officially launched Phase I of WEF’s new Web site, establishing the organization as the ‘go-to’ resource for the world’s best science, engineering and technical practices in water quality.
The Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley received a standing ovation from the 800 attendees for his speech, “Making Chicago a Global Leader in Water and Sustainability,” given in a session on water infrastructure and sustainable innovations. Daley shared the recently unveiled Chicago Climate Action Plan and also insisted that the nation’s cities must re-invest in infrastructure and will need help in financing. “Whoever is the next President of the United States needs to address what has been an inadequate level of federal investment in our infrastructure, including water systems, roads, bridges, highways, public transportation and school construction,” he said.   

On the international front, 2,378 international registrants attended WEFTEC.08. These international attendees included 245 trade delegation attendees from 71 countries, who utilized WEF’s Global Center services to facilitate their meetings with exhibitors, organize site visits and utilize translator services. WEF  also facilitated  meetings, between exhibitors and trade delegates  representing water and wastewater buyer interests from countries such as China, the Philippines, Israel, Bulgaria, Iraq and South Africa, to name a few.

On Tuesday, as part of the “Presidential Celebration,” Zabinski ceremoniously “passed the gavel” of WEF leadership to Rebecca West and inducted the remaining 2008-2009 WEF officers and board of trustees. The ceremony culminated with awards presentations in recognition of the outstanding achievements of the most talented and dedicated professionals in the water quality community. In all, 25-plus awards were presented at various events during the four-day conference.

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