Although I’ve been to a number of IWA World Water Congresses and Exhibitions in the past, this year’s event is my first one as the CEO of KWR. This brings a new form of excitement on shaping our water future – an incredible number of meetings and talks, as well as welcoming many of our Dutch and Flemish water sector partners, international Watershare members and visitors to the Watershare booth.
The biannual event is being held in Tokyo this time. This year I was told over 8,000 water professionals are participating. As water is ubiquitous on our planet, the expectation is that we will hear speakers from all over the world talking about various water issues, challenges and solutions. This also means that these issues range from local, e.g. water provision, flooding, protection of resources and water quality management, to name a few, to more regional and global challenges, such as Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), microplastics in the aquatic environment, water loss and, antimicrobial resistance. It is sobering (and frightening) to find ourselves only 10 years away from the deadline for meeting the SDG6 goal – that of ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – and realising that we are not likely to meet it if we don’t embrace scientific breakthroughs and bring innovation from proven research outcomes to practice. Those very observant readers will realise that this is exactly the motto of KWR!
One of the vehicles for linking of research to practice is Watershare. This collaborative platform brings together KWR researchers and our colleagues from research and the water industry around the world to provide a bridge’ from best knowledge available to practice. This is Watershare’s fourth appearance at IWA Water Congresses and each time we had a booth in the exhibition halls associated with those Congresses. This time again, we have a booth that stands out from the others. It’s not just because it is green (all others are blue – see the photo), but also because we make sure that our members and visitors feel welcome to come to it for a friendly chat. For all of them the booth is an anchor point at the Congress where there is also a good coffee being served throughout the day. We are also expecting to be jetlagged after 10-12 hours of travel across the time zones! The Watershare booth also provides our partners with the platform to talk about their organisations, activities within and outside Watershare, their water challenges and solutions. I’m looking forward to meeting representatives of all 21 of them here in Tokyo!
They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks – or you cannot keep me from the excitement of having blue skies research conversations. That is why I’m also looking forward to attending and speaking at a number of science sessions on the topics of digitalization of the water industry, the role of data science and artificial intelligence in water management and the smart cities. The last one is interesting, as I always believed that smart cities cannot be smart (as in intelligent), without our water systems being smart too. However, whenever people talk about smart cities, the water cycle infrastructure is neglected and we always end up hearing mainly about energy, transport and ICT. The experiences with droughts (like in Cape Town and Europe this summer), or water quality issues with water supply (like in Flint, Michigan) remind us how much we as a society rely on this vital infrastructure.
I’ll finish my first blog for KWR and from this IWA Congress by congratulating our Japanese hosts for realising how detrimental the plastic bottled water industry is to the planet. And how wasteful it is, when like in Tokyo there is excellent quality and much cheaper tap water. It is wonderful that our hosts are providing free reusable water bottles to fill them at Tokyowater Drinking Stations – a temporary water dispenser installed at various locations at Tokyo Big Sight during the Congress. I raise my bottle to you and toast to a successful IWA World Water Congress 2018!