After a four-year hiatus, the Emerging Water Technology Symposium (EWTS) returns to being an in-person event, held May 10-12 in San Antonio. The biannual event first began in 2008 and was held regularly until the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the meeting in 2020. Last year, organizers opted to host a virtual event due to a spike in coronavirus cases.
The EWTS is co-convened by the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE), the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), in cooperation with the World Plumbing Council (WPC).
This year’s keynote addresses will be delivered by Don Johnston, senior operations director, Indonesia, for Water.org, and Robert Puente, president and CEO of the San Antonio Water System. A complete schedule is available at https://ewts.org/2022-schedule.
PM Engineer Chief Editor Nicole Krawcke sat down with Tony Marcello, senior vice president of training and credential services at IAPMO, to discuss what attendees have to look forward to this year’s much anticipated live event.
PM Engineer: What's the purpose of holding this event every two years? What do you hope to accomplish?
TM: So the goal of the event is to highlight and educate people about the important technologies, policies and trends that are impacting the water and plumbing industry, and everyone that's involved in and around potable water. Technology, as we know certainly with computers, can change very rapidly. But one of the reasons we do it every two years is we want to allow enough time for things to happen and to develop, so that we're not reporting on little advancements as opposed to big things that are worth having people come from around the country and around the world to hear about the latest and greatest things that impact public health, safety, water efficiency, Legionella mitigation — all those things we think of when we think about the water industry.
PM Engineer: It’s been some time since EWTS was held in person. How important is this year’s event because of that?
TM: Well, in addition to the content, the networking aspect of this event is huge. This event really brings together a who's who from the water world. For example, this year we've got presentations from Water.org and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We're have the head of IAPMO’s foundation arm, IWSH, presenting from Ireland. It's really an opportunity for the movers and shakers — the MVPs, so-to-speak — of the water industry to get together and have that opportunity to network. With everyone finally being able to move around a little bit after the pandemic, I think it'll be a really great opportunity for people to get together.
PM Engineer: How many attendees are you anticipating, and how would that compare to like the last time you guys were in person in 2018?
TM: Obviously in coming out of the pandemic, there's always going to be a little uncertainty. I think it's important to note that the EWTS is organized through several organizations and not just IAPMO. So you've got IAPMO, PMI, ASPE and AWE who are all working together on this. What we've been discussing and hearing is when PMI and ASPE held their events, they've had record turnouts. So it looks like the industry and people are looking to getting out and about and doing things again. We're anticipating having close to, or even surpassing, our normal numbers. Normally, we typically have somewhere between 120 to about 150 people participate in the event.
PM Engineer: How much planning goes into an event like this?
TM: An insane amount. This particular event, parts of it were in the works as early as 2019. Because we were planning on having an event in 2020. Under normal circumstances, from the time planning starts until the event actually happens, it’s probably a good 18 months. Even though it's only a two day event, we put together a program that is pretty incredible, and that takes a while to open up calls for abstracts, review them, get all the speakers on board and obviously, working the logistics side of it with the hotel. This time around, because of the lingering effects of the pandemic, we are going to have several virtual presentations, people presenting remotely from other countries that weren't able to travel to the U.S. for obvious COVID-19 reasons.
PM Engineer: How do you decide what topics will be presented and who the keynotes will be?
TM: We've got a bit of a process, so we've split the team up into several committees. We have the executive committee which deals with the overall event, but then we also have a technical committee made of representatives from each of the co-convening organizations. And the representatives on that committee are the ones that sift through and analyze all the abstracts that come in.
That group also does some pre-thinking regarding what are some of the main industry trends, and who is out there that would be of interest to the people that we attract to this event. Then we start doing our reach outs to potential keynote speakers well in advance of even doing the call for abstracts. It’s a little bit of a process because usually, you're trying to reach people who are a little harder to get ahold of because they're important people in their organizations, and then some of it is also based geographically. This year, one of our keynotes is Robert Puente, who's from San Antonio. So as the event moves around the country, we also try to take into account who's there locally, and allow someone from the area that the event's taking place to be able to come in and talk about the water issues in their area.
PM Engineer: What topic being presented this year, would you say is the most important for the plumbing industry in 2022?
TM: Well, it's a hard question to answer because depending on what area of the plumbing industry you're coming from, you're going to have different perspectives. We do have a presentation or two that's going to touch on Legionella and related issues. So folks coming from the health and safety side of the equation might find that to be of interest.
We have discussions from organizations like Water.org and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that talk about the utilization of technology in philanthropic efforts to make our world a better place, and then to help people in areas that don't have the same type of infrastructure that we do. One thing that we're doing for the first time is we're running a dual track on Day Two. We had so many high-quality abstracts submitted that we couldn't really just limit it to one track each day without leaving out some really good programs. So on Day Two, we will feature two separate tracks, one of which is aligned more with the plumbing industry. The second track lines up a little bit more with the water utility-type folks. From that perspective, people coming to EWTS will not only get to hear some of the really good things going on in general, but will be able to get information that’s really pertinent to what they do.
PM Engineer: What are you most looking forward to at this year's event?
TM: Well, with how much planning has gone into it and how much disappointment we've had as we've had to postpone it twice because of the pandemic, I'm just really excited to finally be able to have this program happen in person and bring this event back to the industry. There's a platform to discuss some of these issues and allow the networking that happens at this event to take place. It's a one in once in a blue moon kind of opportunity. How often does someone get to go to event where they can go to a reception where they can talk to someone from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Water.org or spend time with someone like Dr. Janice Stout from Special Pathogens Laboratory to talk about Legionella-type issues? Having all those people at one place is really kind of an amazing thing. Just being able to kind of bring that all together, I think is what I'm most excited about.
PM Engineer: What do you hope the attendees take away?
TM: Well, certainly we hope that as they leave, they feel it was a fulfilling couple of days. With the way the program is set up, an individual will see about 20 presentations attending both days. There’s also going to be a couple of panel discussions. At the very least, someone should walk away having learned some new things, made some new contacts and hopefully have some new perspectives to help guide what they do on a day-to-day basis. The EWTS has always generated great reviews from attendees. This is the best program we’ve ever had, so we’re really excited about getting people there in person.