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Toronto hosts the future leaders of water

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By Peter Davey

In late June, future water leaders from across the world gathered at Ryerson University in Toronto for the 9th annual International Young Water Professionals Conference.

This prestigious event brought 260 attendees from 48 countries together for a multi-disciplinary conference that examined and discussed global water challenges, technological developments and designing the cities of the future.

Organized by the International Water Association (IWA), the aim of the conference was to: “Empower young talent…to contribute to delivering the solutions for sustainable water management.” A theme that coloured keynote presentations and drew participant questions was the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal Number Six: “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

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Despite progress, especially between 2000 – 2015, 785 million people lacked a basic drinking water service, and 701 million people practiced open defecation in 2017, according to the UN.

In one of the conference’s opening presentations, panelist Kerry Black, an associate professor at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, pointed out that access to drinking water and sanitation is an everyday challenge for many First Nation communities across Canada, and not just something that developing countries must address.

Following the opening remarks, eager young professionals of all backgrounds packed into session rooms to listen intently to their peers and asked well-rounded and discussion provoking questions.

The host city Toronto was well represented in a number of presentations. In the “Resilient Cities and Infrastructure” session, members of Toronto Water’s Process, Innovation and Energy group, outlined the utility’s infrastructure and treatment capacities and discussed the optimization and efficiency-finding work the group does.

In the “Water and Society” technical session, Anum Khan presented findings on “flushability” and the problems with determining what makes something flushable in municipal sewers and household toilets. The findings were from a recent report by Ryerson University that Khan co-authored.

“The theme of the conference, ‘Connect, Learn and Lead’, could have not been better reflected during these days in Toronto,” said IWA Leadership Engagement Officer Caterina Marinetti. “I was impressed to see such huge and enthusiastic attendance by young professionals from so many countries, as far away as South Africa, Uganda, India, Philippines and Australia, to name a few. Yet, they blended as one big global family, building together a ‘water-wise culture’ made up of countless skills and disciplines, as well as diverse and colourful local traditions.”

If you missed this event, the International Water Association will be returning to Toronto in 2022 for its World Water Congress & Exhibition. This large event is expected to draw thousands of global water professionals for a combined tradeshow and conference.

This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s October 2019 issue.

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