June 17, 2019 KeynotesSDGsTechnology

IWA-LET 2019 : Environmental challenges need water technology innovation

Mountain view point over Edinburgh city.

16th IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies (LET)


Edinburgh, UK, 14 June 2019 Micro pollutants are present in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. From pharmaceutical products to pesticides to hormone active pills, the removal of these contaminants at wastewater treatment plants pose increasing challenges to the water industry. An efficient way to fight the problem, is to block the source or their travel routes.

At the IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies (LET) 2019, world renowned experts debate and present solutions to these emerging pollutants. The role of water utilities is critical here.

“Micro pollutants range are from pharmaceuticals to pesticides and all do influence our water quality”, says Uwe Sollfran, President Hollinger AG. ”The removal of these contaminants at wastewater treatment plants pose increasing challenges to the water industry.”

“The micro pollutants reach the wastewater facilities within the very large quantity of wastewater. If you want to treat the wastewater and remove the micro pollutant at utility level there is quite a significant investment to make”, states Lydia Whyatt, Resonance Asset Management Ltd. “Instead what you can do is to remove them before it hits the treatment plant. This will improve the efficiency in the wastewater treatment”.


2019 IWA-LET

The 16th IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies (LET) closed on Friday, concluding that water technology innovations are most critical to find solutions for emerging challenges in the water sector and beyond. New critical water technology developments are emerging continuously and we all know about the importance to keep in exchange on latest research, to keep the momentum vibrant.

Bringing innovations, novel technology developments, and leading-edge applications from across the industry is key to our water future. Throughout the week, there was a focus on implementation and action of water technology innovations for the emerging challenges the world faces.

Being the window to the world for water sector technology, the LET gathers international experts on water technology innovations for the water sector.

“At the Leading Edge Conference we get technology to attract people from the business side perspective from commercialising products to implementing technology for developers, to display new opportunities for them“, states Ana Soares, Cranfield University.

Finding solutions to emerging contaminants such as micro-plastics and micro pollution or digitalisation of water was among the key issues discussed by the interdisciplinary participants, covering the full range of professions in the water sector from research to practice, from utilities to academia.

“What you see at this conference is the mixture of really good academics, the best academics in the world,” says Simon Parson, Scottish Water, “talking to people from utilities here and actually to people whose job it is to develop technology to make them fit and ready for the world.”

Examining how digitalisation is transforming the water sector, the International Water Association (IWA) and global water technology company, Xylem (NYSE: XYL) released during the week a comprehensive white paper titled: Digital Water: Industry Leaders Chart the Transformation Journey.” This important resource provides utility decision makers with actionable learnings to accelerate their adoption of digital solutions and address critical water challenges.

“At a time when global water challenges are escalating, digital solutions offer communities around the world bold, new ways to optimise, manage and conserve this most precious resource,” said Kala Vairavamoorthy, IWA Executive Director, when he launched both, the Digital Water Report and the  IWA Digital Programme at the LET2019.

Within the water industry we have always relied on technology”, says Rob Mustrad, Director of Digital at Scottish Water. “With varying degrees we have got digital systems from customer services to financial system. We also got the digital which run around operational assets and which tells us what is happening there. During the last two three years with IoT, with artificial intelligence, data science et cetrera, this is completely changing the landscape of the digital within any industry but particularly the water industry.”


About IWA LET 

The 16th IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies 2019 themed “Water Technology Innovations for Emerging Challenges”, welcomed 473 delegates from 48 countries in Endinburgh, UK, to discuss and exchange knowledge and to meet with experts across sectors. The conference received a record number of 487 abstracts and 196 posters.

The 16th IWA LET was co-organised with the local partner Cranfield University and other supporters, among them Scottish Water, and sponsors.

The next edition, 17th IWA LET will be co-organized by the University of Nevada and will take place in Reno, United States, 1-5 June 2020.

More information on the conference here: iwa-let.org


Takeaways from IWA LET 2019 keynote speeches 

In his keynote Eric Hoek from Water Planet, detailed on entrepreneurial adventures in water and discussed lessons learned and future outlook.

Maxine Mayhew Executive Director, Group Capability & Water, Costain Group P, spoke in her keynote on the importance of affordable sustainable water supply along with protecting and enhancing the environment in the time of global changes being more important than ever.

In her speech, Doris van Halem, TU Delft, spoke about the role of water engineers in arsenic contaminated regions is shifting, demanding for a new generation of adaptive drinking water technologies. Technologies that benefit from current (digital) innovations but connect to the end-user’s context and resources.

“This is a real place to pick up overall and future trends in the field”, says Mark van Loosdrecht, TU Delft. In his keynote he raised the importance of environmental biotechnology with biofilm research being the formation and complexity of the extracellular matrix. He urges that better understanding of it will enable production of high performance resources from waste organic carbon.

Bruce Rittmann from the Arizona State University, states in his speech, that the capabilities of biofilm processes can be enhanced when they are grown on active substrata.

Lydia Whyatt raises the attention in her keynote speech on the challenge of the commercialisation of water technology as sales cycles are long and the risk taking by clients, here utilities, is low. The investors and capital injection are key here to prove the technology and to market it.  In a time where much new water technology has come of age, the financing approach has to be changed.


Watch key messages from IWA-LET 2019

16th IWA LET

Digital Water