WEFTEC continues to solidify its reputation as the world-class water quality event by setting new records for New Orleans. A total of 20,385 registrants and 1,027 companies using 303,075 net square feet of exhibition space, participated at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. As the host of thousands of water professionals and water companies from nearly 100 countries, WEFTEC 2014—the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) 87th annual technical exhibition and conference—is officially the largest showing for WEF in the famed Crescent City.
“In terms of what we have to offer, WEFTEC is really hitting a sweet spot in the industry,” said 2013-2014 WEF President Sandra Ralston. “What makes our event unique is that it represents all water and reflects what we’re hearing and seeing as the most important water issues impacting our communities today.”
“The notable showing in New Orleans says that WEFTEC is an important industry event but also speaks to the value and importance of water as a big picture issue that links to all aspects of modern society,” added WEF Executive Director Eileen O’Neill. “WEF understands that and has worked hard to stretch ourselves beyond what has traditionally worked, which demonstrates our willingness to change to meet the evolving needs of our members, attendees, and the entire water sector.”
Reinforcing this concept was the Opening General Session, which officially kicked off the conference on Monday, Sept. 29. Built around a central theme of embracing change in a disruptive age, the program featured complementary and inspiring remarks from Ralston and best-selling author and transformative change expert, Luke Williams.
Williams encouraged attendees to “take the water world by surprise,” by breaking out of traditional modes of operation and pursuing bold, new ideas. “[To spark innovation] you have to encourage ideas to meet, mix, mate, and mutate into forms the world has never seen before,” said Williams. It’s a worthwhile idea but one that challenges our “self-similarity principle,” which is the tendency to gravitate toward the familiar. “It is difficult to break out of the boxes we are in,” he said. “Rather than simply adopting a spot-and-react strategy, we need to lead the disruptive change, and let go of the notion that it’s a comfortable process.”
Later that morning, conference attendees were further encouraged to learn from the past but focus on the future during the Great Water Cities Session. Featuring opening remarks from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the panel of water leaders from France, New Zealand, and New York shared examples of how their cities are coping with natural disasters, extreme weather events, and future growth. McCarthy led the call for an increase in partnerships and collaboration among all sectors and nations to help solve our world’s water situations.
Another important opportunity explored at WEFTEC 2014 was the connection between water and the economy. Three high profile press events, featuring national and local luminaries such as Administrator McCarthy and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, highlighted this connection and examined both the national and local benefits of investing in our nation’s water infrastructure, including job creation and stronger international competitiveness.
On Tuesday, President Ralston ceremoniously “passed the gavel” of Federation leadership to incoming President Ed McCormick and inducted the 2014-2015 WEF 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.
Other notable WEFTEC highlights included the popular Innovation Showcase; the second annual Stormwater Congress; the “Recharge, Restore, Revitalize Hollygrove: Conrad Park Green Infrastructure Enhancements” community service project; the 2014 WEF Student Design Competition; the AEESP/WEF Scientists’ Lecture and Luncheon; and the 2014 Operations Challenge Competition, which was won by 2013 defending champions Terminal Velocity (Division 1) and Team HRSD (Division 2), both from the Virginia Water Environment Association.
For complete details of the entire conference and related events, please see the online editions of the WEFTEC Daily at www.weftec.org.