CWEA's Annual Conference in Palm Springs

Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of fun…nuf said!

Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of fun…nuf said!

This year’s CWEA Annual Conference in Palm Springs proved to follow CWEA tradition in providing quality and value to our members.  The conference was jam-packed with training and networking -oriented events and opportunities, setting new standards with respect information and training access.  As is the tradition for CWEA, this year’s conference was a model for how stretching our boundaries enables better and better events each year.  Please read on to for highlights of the many great events and programs that took place at AC09.

Ice-Breaker Reception
Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of fun…nuf said!
Hope you had fun!


CWEA President Dave Greenwood, Michael Creel and Jim Clark

Opening Session
The Opening Session program, “Building a Sustainable Future for the Municipal Wastewater Industry through Energy Conservation, Resource Management, and Green Practices” presented regulatory, industry, and local agency perspectives on sustainability.  Distinguished speakers included: Alexis Strauss, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Peter Binney, Black & Veatch, and Mike Hogan (Encina Wastewater Authority, retired). 

Ms. Strauss gave a broad overview of regulatory programs, policies, and initiatives promoting sustainable solutions.  She described some of the future regulations under development to enhance protection of the environment.  Mr. Binney defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  He explained how sustainable practices balance environment, economy, and society and create a planning framework to make better decisions to efficiently use resources and better protect the environment.  The presentation by Mr. Hogan covered various strategies that Encina has implemented to promote sustainable solutions in the areas of energy, biosolids, assets, effluent disposal and reuse, and building design.   He gave an overview of authority’s innovative energy management and biosolids programs which fully utilize digester gas to meet the entire power and heating demands of the plant and produce heat dried biosolids pellets for beneficial use in “Class A” markets or as a biofuel, respectively.

Following the three presentations, speakers participated in question and answer panel which was moderated by Jim Clark of Black & Veatch.   The session participants posed numerous insightful questions to the panel, which were all expertly answered.


Jim Clarck, BV, Keynote Speaker

Jim Clark, BV, Keynote Speaker

Pre-Conference Workshops
The Annual Conference got off to a great start with a full slate of nine Specialty Workshops.  Over 200 people were in attendance for an excellent day of training.  Tops in attendance, as usual, was the Collection Systems workshop, which discussed strategies for responding to spills.  A wide variety of workshops was offered to reflect the diversity of disciplines that make up the CWEA membership, including the Solar Power, Financial Planning, and Laboratory workshops, which were all well received.  In addition, a Leadership workshop was held to train the next generation of CWEA leadership.  A duo of national experts was brought in to conduct an excellent workshop on Activated Sludge and Clarifier Performance.  The Anaerobic Digestion workshop discussed the nuts and bolts and the latest advancements in this important process.  Also, two SSMP workshops were held to prepare CWEA members for meeting new State regulations.

Technical Sessions
The Technical Program for this year’s Conference was diverse, well attended and thoroughly engaging!  As part of 51 technical sessions, over 200 technical presentations were given during the 3-day conference and ranged in topic from emerging regulatory issues to the latest in engineering and research.  Some of the highlights from the Program included sessions on Sustainable and Green Design as well as Asset Management.

Technical Tours
The Technical Tour Program was very successful with more than 135 registrants receiving valuable contact hours for participating in the five tours to various environmental facilities throughout Coachella Valley and Inland Empire.  Tour attendees were impressed with the breadth of “green” technologies and water reclamation projects presented in the tour program.  Highlights included research endeavors into the use of algae for biodiesel fuel production, implementation of wastewater process optimization strategies, practical execution of LEED® certification, and fuel generation from biosolids and municipal waste.

Manufacturers’ Exhibition, Lunch and Receptions
With 227 exhibit booths and a hugely expanded exposition floor, this year’s EXPO was CWEA’s largest ever.  The Exposition was a smashing success, as was Thursday’s complimentary pasta lunch which attracted hundreds of conference-goers into the hall.  Each evening of the EXPO, exhibitor’s hosted an outstanding reception with food, drink and valuable networking for all who attended.

 Industry Partner and CWEA Local Sections & Committee Displays
This year was the first year that we invited our industry partners and CWEA local sections and committees to come share their programs and activities with our conference attendees. A diverse number of organizations were represented in the lobby area of the Palm Springs Convention Center, including industry partners such as Water for People, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, the State Water Resources Control Board, Engineers Without Borders, NASSCO Inc., the National Water Research Institute, and Southern California Edison.  CWEA Local Sections and Committees such as Tri-Counties Section, Colorado River Basin Section (CORBS), Southern Section Collection System Committee, Student and Young Professionals Committee, and the Collections Systems Committee Gimmicks & Gadgets Display.  Conference attendees were able to conveniently access the wealth of information available to them.  Next year, we plan to have even more participants so that our conference attendees can truly get to know our industry partners and CWEA local sections and committees.

Food, Fun & Networking:

Committee Meetings and Breakfasts
Have you ever wondered what a committee does or how to get more involved in CWEA? The answer to your questions would have been answered if you had attended one of the 19 committee meetings and breakfast that were held at the conference.  At these meetings, CWEA committees conducted their important business including reviewing annual activities, approving new committee officers, discussing conference/seminar speakers and topics, review certification issues, presenting awards, and much more.  Consider attending these valuable meetings at next year’s conference or check with the CWEA office to see how you can get involved now.

Business Lunch
Even during times of economic uncertainty, our CWEA local sections have been generous with their support of the Kirt Brooks Memorial Water Environment Scholarship. A total of $16,293 was pledged at the 2009 Annual Conference. The San Diego Section was able to donate a whopping $5,000!  During the past two years, applications for Kirt Brooks Scholarships has more than doubled compared to previous years.  See the separate article in this E-Bulletin for a list of contributors.

Awards Lunch
During the Awards Lunch, 38 state and national level awards were presented to individuals and organizations for their great achievements in serving our profession and protecting our environment.  See the separate article in this E-Bulletin for a list of these great achievers.

 Students and Young Professionals’ Mixer
SYP Mixer – The third annual Students and Young Professionals Mixer was an incredible success. Students, young professionals, and seasoned professionals alike enjoyed the great venue and abundant food. The mixer was very well-attended, and in fact, we ran out of seats! It was a great networking opportunity for all, and the addition of exciting door prizes and a friendly business card-collecting/networking competition, created a warm buzz of lively conversation in the room. A number of new ideas were discussed, and many new friendships were made while old ones were renewed. The mixer provided an excellent opportunity for conference attendees to relax and share their thoughts and ideas. We hope to see you there at next year’s mixer!

 Ice Cream Social
What can we say…This year’s Conference Committee decided to continue the long-standing (since last year) tradition that the AC09 Committee started.  Lots of ice cream was scooped and devoured.  Rumor has it that the new 5-S members actually used their new buckets and gold shovels instead of the cups and spoons that were provided.  We hope you enjoyed!

Conference Banquet
In addition to various awards and induction of the incoming 2009-2010 Board, the Banquet featured entertainment by the Sludgetones, a group of eight California musicians who perform wastewater-industry related songs.  Audience participation included a performance by The Commodes (CWEA Past Presidents), a martial arts demonstration by David “Bruce Lee” Greenwood to the song “Kung Fu Fighting” – (that may have been the best part of the whole conference), and a reenactment of the famous “Risky Business” air guitar scene by Darren “Tom Cruise” Greenwood to the song “Old Time Rock and Roll”.


Special Events and Activities:

5S Induction Ceremony
An outstanding list of CWEA members joined the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers as the Class of 2009 at the 5S Induction Ceremony that was conducted at the end of the Opening General Session at the Annual Conference on April 29, 2009. Co-Chairs Chuck Weirand Mike Hogan thanked the nominators and the selection panel.  Similar to previous years the presentation included a PowerPoint with pictures of the new Shovelers, a few highlights of their CWEA activities, and some humorous information about them. Chuck and Mike ended their 5-year term chairing the 5S Selection Committee and welcomed new Co-Chairs, Steven Agor and Maura Bonnarens. The audience enjoyed the show and the new Shovelers proudly displayed their shovels for the rest of the Conference.  Listed below is the 5S Class of 2009.


 Lee Boyer
 Philip Lo
 Michael Reilly
Andrew Briones
Pei-Chin Low
Rick Staggs
Bruce Corwin
Ed McCormick
Eric Sundale
Lena Cox
Dwayne Norman
Jerry Tamura
Patrick Fuss
 Nikki Orabuena
 Mai Tram-Le
Patrick Griffith
 Tim Page-Bottorff
 Simon Watson
Steve Laren
 Ed Peterson

Operations Challenge
The 2009 Operations Challenge proved to be an exciting event for both the competitors as well as the spectators.  Conference attendees once again packed the aisles around the challenge areas to see the teams give it their all in an attempt to be crowned the state’s best.  Los Angeles County’s “LA Wrecking Crew” reclaimed the state title after last year’s defeat. The team from Vallejo made a great run and had their best ever finish of second place overall.  Sacramento’s team continued to showcase their skills including a first place finish in the laboratory event.  All three teams should be congratulated for their superb performance as they now ready themselves for the upcoming WEFTEC event in Orlando. 


Liquid Assets Documentary
Liquid Assets is a public media and outreach initiative that seeks to inform the nation about the critical role that our water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity.  A 90-minute documentary, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering, and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure. It tells the story of essential infrastructure systems: water, wastewater, and stormwater.  The documentary, which provides an understanding of the hidden assets that support our way of life, was shown four times throughout the conference.  If you missed it, consider visiting the Liquid Assets web-site at

Sludge Trudge 5k Fun Run/Walk
This year’s Sludge Trudge 5k race was held at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs on April 30. Turnout was outstanding with 31 runners/walkers! Once again we had Siemens as our generous sponsor.  There were twelve categories of competition, one each for men and women, under 30, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, over 60, and walkers. The awards were green 1GB IPOD Shuffles, engraved with Sludge Trudge 09 on the clip, which seemed to be well received.  The overall winner was Jonathan Sanchez of JBI Water and Wastewater in a time of 19:18, the women’s overall winner was Judes Brooks of Orange County Sanitation Districts in a time of 24:20.


Mixed Martial Arts Demonstration
The Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration attracted lots of folks who were interested in learning about the various fighting techniques used in martial arts, how they are combined into a fighting style, and how they are applied with devastating effect.  Live demonstrations were conducted, with blow-by-blow commentary on the techniques and methods used, to provide an understanding of the variety of martial art systems and the training that fighters endure in preparing for bouts.


Women’s Self-Defense Seminar
This two-hour course included lecture and hands-on practice in realistic self-defense application. The primary goal was to teach how to recognize and avoid potential dangerous situations.  Course topics included: Preparation to ensure success; Avoidance strategies; Awareness at home and on the road; Recognizing dangerous situations; Defense against grabbing and choking; and Offense strategies.  The seminar included demonstration and practice of effective methods of defense for cases where avoidance fails.  If you attended this seminar, you should now be able to protect yourself against those “clean” water folks.


Thanks to Our Conference Sponsors
We wish to thank the following companies for their sponsorship contribution:

About the Author

Alec Mackie

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