Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reflecting on SIWW2014 and Nepal2014

This summer I went to my first Singapore International Water Week (SIWW for those in the know). It was an excellent experience and thought I'd reflect on what I'd seen.

If I had to sum up what SIWW is all about, I'd say it was a truly global center for water professionals to network. I've been to other international conferences that do a decent job of connecting utilities, and/or consultants; others do a great job of connecting researchers and academics; still others connect regulators and policy makers... now SIWW somehow manages to bring all of them together. That's quite an acheivement. I'm a process engineer, which means I appreciate technologies and how we apply them to solve water issues. Until recently I've not really appreciated the value of networking with diverse water experts from around the world, but more and more I understand the axiom "it's who you know, not what you know." Of course it's nice to know a bit too and by rubbing shoulders with smart international experts you get to add to your own knowledge.

Fast forward to October 2014 and I'm about to head off to the IWA Specialist Conference "Sustainable Wastewater Treatment and Resource Recovery" in Nepal. I'm intrigued to see the diversity of water professionals at this conference in comparison to SIWW. In addition to diversity across the various roles in the water industry, I'll be interested to see a greater diversity across geopolitical boundaries which will help us to see the differences and commonalities across our profession. I've only worked in already-developed nations and seen wastewater treatment through the narrow lense of technologically intensive and centralized approaches. It will be good to take a step back and out to see how different nations are tackling wastewater treatment. There's a distinct possibility that other nations, still developing their infrastructure, can by-pass some of the mistakes we've taken in the West and jump ahead to more sustainable solutions directly. That's what I'm hoping for in the discussion segments of a workshop I'm helping to lead: "Workshop D: Leapfrogging to off- the- grid biological nutrient removal (October 27, 2014)". We'll see. Should be interesting...


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