From The Editor | September 23, 2013

The 8 Hottest Topics In Wastewater


By Kevin Westerling,

The program for WEFTEC 2013, the premier conference and exhibition for the wastewater industry, is broken down into 8 core areas.

The City of Chicago is about to be overrun. Come early October, there will be more wastewater professionals here than in any other spot on the globe. That’s a safe prediction in that the annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), set for Oct. 5 to 9 at McCormick Place South, is the biggest show of its kind. For many attendees, it’s also the sole conference they attend — a one-time opportunity to absorb the latest trends, technologies, and education the industry has to offer. Knowing its vital role to the industry, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) works year-round to craft a technical program that addresses the most pertinent topics in wastewater. For this, the 86th edition, WEF has neatly identified eight trending and essential focus areas, helping to bring order to the (controlled) chaos that accompanies a show of this size and scope.

Here are the eight topics highlighted (click the titles for session info):

  • Managing NutrientsA full 25 percent of the technical sessions are devoted to this topic.
  • Collection Systems106 presentations in 19 sessions make up part of WEFTEC’s inaugural Stormwater Congress.
  • Energy ManagementOne of the biggest expenses for utilities may also be one of the easiest to curtail. A host of sessions discuss how.
  • InnovationBravely embracing “disruptive technologies” can overcome problems inherent to conventional thinking and solutions.
  • Managing BiosolidsReport here for strategies on turning your passé wastewater treatment facility into a “water resource recovery facility.”
  • Utility ManagementAsset management, financing, communication strategies, and workforce issues are on the slate.
  • Utility ResiliencyClimate change, flood control, and fortifying infrastructure to handle extreme weather will be covered — or, as one presentation states, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Resilience but Were Afraid to Ask.”
  • Water ReuseThis track has a decided focus on industrial wastewater, with sessions also offered on direct potable reuse and desalination. “Are You Smarter than a Regulator?” seems too fun to miss.

In all, WEFTEC offers 140 technical sessions — plenty of opportunity for operators to pick up continuing education credits (CEUs) and professional development hours — with subject matter ranging from the fundamental to the advanced. There are also hands-on learning opportunities provided by the 27 available workshops.

Other highlights for the show at large include:

  • 10 facility tours, compliments of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
  • 900-plus exhibitors, covering 300,000 square feet of space (more than 7 football fields)
  • Show-floor “pavilions” dedicated (separately) to technology innovation and stormwater treatment
  • The Water Leaders Session, featuring opening remarks by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (Monday, October 7th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
  • The always entertaining and hotly contested Operations Challenge
  • Water Online, which will be broadcasting Water Online Radio, distributing Water Online The Magazine, Wastewater Edition, and entering visitors to win the new iPad (4th generation) at booth 2953.

Last year, the conference attracted more than 17,000 attendees of varying type in the water/wastewater industry, creating an invaluable networking opportunity. If you’re attending this year, please stop by the Water Online booth or contact me at to discuss your business at the show. I’m looking forward to uncovering the technologies, ideas, and personalities that are shaping the industry and moving it forward.

What are you looking forward to at WEFTEC? Share your goals, suggestions, or critical focus areas for the show in the space below.