5 'Can't Miss' Opportunities At WEFTEC
In a good sign for the wastewater industry, the upcoming Water Environment Federation Conference Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) will be the biggest in its 85-year history — weak economy be damned. Set for Oct. 1 to 3 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, the event features a nearly 300,000-square-foot show floor with 969 exhibitors and an estimated 18,500 attendees. If you’re among them, Jeff Eger, the executive director of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), says there are five opportunities you simply shouldn’t miss.
His selected show highlights fit into a broader theme and mission WEF adopted at the start of 2012. The goals of WEFTEC 2012, Eger told me, are three-fold: to drive innovation in the water sector, to enrich the expertise of the global water professional, and to increase awareness for the value of water. The following WEFTEC events will set you on the right path towards meeting these objectives.
1. Innovation Showcase/Innovation Pavilion
A huge focus of WEFTEC 2012 — “probably the one thing we’re most excited about,” said Eger — is the Innovation Showcase, which includes the Innovation Pavilion. Open throughout the exhibition in booth 1957, Hall C, the pavilion will feature products and technologies selected by Imagine H2O and O2 Environmental — leading organizations in water and wastewater innovation that have partnered for the event — as well as selections from WEF itself.
Beyond just products, however, the Innovation Showcase will feature discussions, presentations, and events focused on evolving the industry from every angle, be it operations, R&D, financing, customer relations, etc. To see the full list of offerings for the Innovation Showcase, click here.
2. Opening General Session: A New Direction
In keeping with the theme of innovation, WEFTEC’s keynote speaker for the Opening General Session is Jim Carroll, author of The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Fast. On Monday morning, from 8:30 to 9:30 in the Morial Convention Center Auditorium, Carroll will speak to the transformative power of innovation, and why it is a vital component of success — especially now, in this troubled economy, and particularly in the water/wastewater industry.
Eger, who will also be speaking at the General Opening Session, hopes Carroll will inspire the audience into action. “We’ve been really good at talking about things, but not good at implementing. And that’s what we’re trying to do at WEFTEC,” Eger said. “Let’s quit talking about it and find what it’s going to take to do it.”
3. Water Leaders Session, Featuring U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
From one great speaker to the next, Monday’s Water Leaders Session — in the Morial Theater from 10:30 to noon — will be keynoted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson. With one eye on the past and another on the future, Jackson will speak on “40 Years of Clean Water and Innovation For Tomorrow,” in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Under Jackson and President Obama, the EPA has certainly challenged utilities with stricter water quality regulations, but the administration has also championed exactly the sort of innovation that WEF is promoting.
The Water Leaders Session continues after Jackson’s keynote with a panel of thought leaders, each representing a different segment of the industry, sharing their perspectives on the future of water management. Participants include:
- George Hawkins, general manager of DC Water in Washington, D.C. (public utility)
- Jeff Sterba, president and CEO of American Water Works Company (private utility)
- Gretchen McClain, president and CEO of Xylem Inc. (technology provider)
- Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director at the University of South Florida’s Patel School of Global Sustainability (academia)
Said Eger, the session chair for the event: “My big goal for the Water Leaders Session is to find that ‘aha!’ moment, to say ‘Here's where we ought to be; here's where we need to focus our attention.’ We are really excited about this collection of folks. We think the Opening General Session, followed by these water leaders, is really going to be a ‘can't miss.’”
4. Stormwater Pavilion
Back in the exhibition hall, there is a second dedicated pavilion that makes the ‘can’t miss’ list. The sprawling Stormwater Pavilion, in excess of 10,000 square feet, will provide access to more than 30 exhibitors in a central location. Located in Hall H, this new initiative reflects the growing demand for stormwater management technology. “More and more of our utilities are recognizing that you can't manage wastewater without managing stormwater,” said Eger. “It all connects with our water quality issues, and new regulatory requirements as well.”
In addition to the pavilion, WEFTEC offers a slate of workshops and sessions covering all things stormwater, including regulations, green infrastructure planning, wet weather modeling, and financing. Click here for the schedule.
5. Learning Lounge
Finally, what program focused on innovation would be complete without a nod to the Internet and social media? WEFTEC has you covered with the introduction of the Learning Lounge, located in La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom C. In quick, 15- to 30-minute sessions, provided in a casual, relaxed setting, visitors can get hands-on demonstrations of the latest Web technology and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
“As an industry, we’re really slow moving into social media,” said Eger. “The Learning Lounge program will teach some of the basics of engaging in social media and the value of it.”
The learning in the lounge extends beyond the cyber realm, however, with sessions covering topics such as how to give a quality presentation or create a well-written abstract. See the entire lineup of tutorials here. (Personally, I may attend the “Appy Hour” tutorial, just for the name.)
Some Other Opportunities You Shouldn’t Miss…
Here are a few more noteworthy considerations to take with you to New Orleans:
- U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Francisco J. Sanchez will launch the U.S. Environmental Technologies Export Initiative on Monday at 10 AM in the Global Center.
- A variety of technical sessions will be held on the exhibit floor, including booth-hopping mobile sessions. Based on positive feedback from past floor sessions, WEFTEC has more than doubled the offerings for 2012. View the complete list here.
- One particular session to earmark is Featured Session #12 – Roadmap to Sustainable Energy Management for Utilities. Eger told me that he and other collaborators have been working since March on an energy roadmapping plan — essentially a “how to” for utilities to use less, and even produce, energy. The results of that roadmap will be revealed on Tuesday, in Room E3 at 2 PM.
- Celebrating its silver anniversary, the Operations Challenge this year features 39 teams competing in four exciting events. The “Wastewater Olympics,” as they are nicknamed, will take place all day Tuesday, from 9:15 AM to 5 PM. If you’ve missed the previous 24, now’s your chance to see why it’s so popular.
Lastly, I would be remiss not to extend an invite to visit Water Online in Hall H, booth 6555. We’ll be broadcasting Water Online Radio live, and we’ll also be registering visitors for our Apple iPad giveaway. Hope to see you there!