IWA’s Heritage

IWA 1947 – 2015

How Visionary Pioneers Created
a Global Water Network

By Paul Reiter, Gustaf Olsson, Helmut Kroiss

Introducing the IWA History and Distinguished Pioneer Initiative

This account begins with what was originally a bottom-up, global-scale action, taken by world-renowned experts concerned with water pollution and drinking water treatment in the aftermath and reindustrialization of WWII.

Two groups of leading water scientists, practitioners and engineers, concerned deeply about the human and ecological health of the world’s freshwater resources, formed the International Water Supply Association (IWSA) in 1947 and shortly thereafter, the International Association of Water Pollution Research (IAWPR) in 1962-65.  Both organizations were formed entirely by their own members’ actions.  From their inception, they were intended to be self-managed and self-funded – a fact that remains true more than 75 years later.

IWSA was more focused on the specific task of providing safe, reliable, and high-quality drinking water supplies available to both municipalities and industries embedded in these communities throughout the world. IWSA members, who often shared comparably advanced educational backgrounds to their counterparts in IAWPR, were often employed by the municipal authorities responsible for providing drinking water to the large cities.  In some cases, these authorities managed the entire water supply chain from source to tap.

IAWPR whose name changed to IAWPRC in 1982 and again to IAWQ in 1992, was focused more broadly on “used” water, the science and technology of water pollution mitigation and the long-term societal strategies for pollution abatement. At the time, a wastewater industry had not yet materialized.  Not surprisingly then, the majority of the IAWPR early members were based in academic institutions and research laboratories. However, later a great number of practitioners joined, while the leadership mostly remained with academics.

Though operating separately over the 1947-1999 period, and prior to their merger and the creation of the International Water Association (IWA) in 2000, both organizations’ work complemented one another.  When viewed historically, they both had significant impact on the evolution of regional and global strategies related to best practice, water policy, and continental-level regulation of all aspects of water, most notably in Europe, North America, and Japan.

A Look Back on IWA’s 75th Birthday

In anticipation of the three organizations reaching their respective 75th, 60th and 22nd birthdays at the 2022 World Water Congress in Copenhagen in 2022, IWA President Tom Mollenkopf launched an initiative aimed at achieving two long overdue objectives related to the introduction presented above.

A Concise History of  IWSA, IAWQ and IWA

A concise history for IWA was developed, titled “The Founding and Evolution of IWSA and IAWQ 1947 -1999 and the Creation of IWA in 2000 and its Evolution through 2015”. The ambition was and remains to provide a concise account of the critical details of the motivations, origins, leaders, challenges, and major accomplishments of these organizations as they traversed the ensuing 75 years.

By almost any of these measures, the International Water Associations stands tall by comparison to all other international organizations operating in the water space, as presented in Section 2 of the document. Active participation in all its events involves 10,000+ participants per year from approximately 120-130 countries.  There is on-average one IWA Specialist Group conference each week somewhere in the world.  At the same time, IWA’s 15 highly regarded journals provide a huge reservoir of knowledge regarding just about any aspect of water science, technology, and management.

Read the Concise History here.
At the Same Time, The History is All About the People

President Mollenkopf’s initiative sought to capture the spirit, vision, and amazing accomplishments of the visionary and dedicated pioneers that made these organization into water-icons.  As the IWA History Document was presented at the IWA World Water Conference in Copenhagen in 2022, everyone present was reminded that:

What made IWA the powerful organization that it is today, and continues to distinguish it from all others, is the strength and integrity of its members and leaders.

This is as true today as it was over 70 years ago when IWSA and IAWPR were conceived and on their way to implementation.

Thanks to the gracious support of about 20 ‘Senior Leaders’, which included Past Presidents, Distinguished Fellows and key outside sources, the development of the IWA history was expanded to include the designation of approximately 50 pivotal leaders, now deceased, that guided the early years of both Associations.  They have now been formally designated as Distinguished Pioneers (DP) and form the backbone of the second part of the document, The People Side of the IWA’s History.

Explore the contributions of the Distinguished Pioneers here.

Acknowledgements – contributions to the history and tributes

Is important to acknowledge the contribution of many individuals to this important initiative, the majority of whom are IWA ‘Senior Leaders’, which include Past Presidents, Distinguished Fellows and key outside sources. They are listed below.

Key contributors

Inspiration and Support
Tom Mollenkopf, IWA President (following 2022 Copenhagen President’s Initiative)
Kala Vairavamoorthy, IWA Executive Director

Development of IWA’s History and First-List of IWA Distinguished Pioneers (DPs)
Researched, Compiled and Written by: Paul Reiter
Major Contributors: Helmut Kroiss, Michael Rouse, David Garman, Glen Daigger,
Jerry Gilbert, Hallvard Odegaard, Joel Mallevialle, Jan Janssens, Saburo Matsui, Eugene Cloete, Willie Grabow, Hermann Hahn, Wolfgang Merkel, David Garman, Petr Grau, Vladamir Novotny, Helene Alegre, Enrique Cabrero
Final Reviewers: David Garman, Helmut Kroiss, Gustaf Olsson, Michael Rouse, Jan Janssens

The IWA Distinguished Pioneer Tailored Professional Tributes (TPTs)
Layout: Paul Reiter, Gustaf Olsson, Helmut Kroiss
Delegation and Management: Paul Reiter with Norbert Jardin, Saburo Matsui, Glen Daigger, Michael Rouse, Theo Martijn, Theo van den Hoven, Joel Mallevialle, Diane D’Arraz, David Garman, Hallvard Odegaard
Final Editing: Gustaf Olsson and Helmut Kroiss

Individual TPTs
Author(s) and contributors listed on each TPT

Key support staff from the IWA Secretariat
Keith Hayward, Emma Gulseven, Keith Robertson