Honouring IWA’s Distinguished Pioneers and
Their Legacies in the IWA history

International Association on Water Quality
(1990 to 1999)

By David Garman

The emergence of a number of forces of change in the water environment just prior to the 1990’s decade did not leave IAWQ unchanged. The changes throughout this decade also led to the emergence of a new set of leaders – both organisationally and thought leaders.

The successive presidents reflected this shifting culture leading to the later integration of the major water and wastewater associations.   In parallel the Association and its membership also changed.

Petr Grau’s dynamic leadership followed on from the winds of change brought into the Association by Poul Harremoes.  Poul’s foresight on the need for more research on urban stormwater and hydraulics established these areas as emerging factors related to climate change and followed on from his vision for energy efficient wastewater systems.

Peter’s thought-provoking analyses of wastewater management systems that ran contrary to accepted practice – that bigger is better – translated into an invigorated and expanding specialist group culture and new Board committees.

His successor in 1996 was Tom Keinath from the US, at that time the largest country member, further expanded the world view of the Association and moved the emphasis towards a strong academic input with a renewed emphasis on the fundamental science of processes and for improved education in this area.

In 1998, Piet Odendaal became the IAWQ President.  As a leader of a large public research organisation in South Africa he re-emphasised the relationship between research and operations.  The coincidental leadership of IWSA with a South African President foreshadowed the concept of integrated management of water systems and integration of the Associations.

There were many winds of change in the water industry.   The EU enacted the Water Framework Directive which introduced pollution load management for river basins including lakes and the affected coastal waters in order to prevent eutrophication.  IAWQ became more closely aligned with IAHR (International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research), WWC (World Water Council) and the role of groundwater in water supply.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) became influential in developing policy, awareness and recognition of the need for reliable water supply and sanitation for low- and middle-income nations with IAWQ providing technical input and representation on key committees.  This was a major shift to a wider role for IAWQ in international water management with the organisation contributing to both the academic and the industrial spheres.

All these contributed to the significance of the changes occurring in the Board and within membership engagement.  Just as great; changes were happening in the administration of water systems.

The implementation of privatisation in the UK led to a re-evaluation and re-working of utility ownership structures and operating performance on a world wide basis but particularly in Australia, France, Germany and the Netherlands.  With increased emphasis on performance and public accountability invoking new investments in capital works with improved control, a greater emphasis on return on investment this became an era of reform. Public awareness of the lack of proper ‘best available technology’ infrastructure in some important areas of water, and particularly wastewater, led to the emergence of governance as a key issue.

In the UK context with Michael Rouse and his UK colleagues foreshadowing changes to management worldwide with the more independently run water and wastewater operations becoming under greater oversight and regulation that more closely resembled their privatised equivalents.

Specialist groups had been developing already in the 1970s and the number had grown significantly.  It seemed that at every Board meeting throughout the 90’s a new specialist group was approved.  This was to set the role of an increasingly active participation of members through their own speciality interests and lead to the emergence of a bottom-up approach for involvement and management direction.

The increasing sophistication of modelling and control systems initiated in the prior decade came to the fore with the advent of more powerful computers and advanced on-line sensors. This had a profound impact on the ICA specialist group, both in terms of content and membership, and led to the creation of spin-off specialist groups in modelling and analysis in systems as well as process levels.

The sophistication of models for the understanding of the biological reactions in the activated sludge system led to the formation of task groups leading to the highly influential Activated Sludge Models. Furthermore, new working groups were formed in infrastructure management.

The modelling development highlighted the limited understanding of the fundamental biological processes that are driving these processes.  It prefaced the emerging topic of DNA and genomic analysis as a water management tool going into the next decade.

Managers with strong performance in water and wastewater, strongly performing organisations with an ability to translate research into practice with integration of researchers into management processes became the new imperative for leading utilities.

In this era of change we also saw private and public organisations develop strong internal or national research capabilities to deal with the issues arising operations. The more forward-thinking individuals were integrating catchment management and multidisciplinary skills as a source water control tool.

With efficiency becoming the catch phrase water distribution loss became an important measure of supply, energy, and resource effectiveness.   Variations in resource security were beginning to emerge as unprecedented droughts arose and water re-use and integration went from being ‘unacceptable’ to being at least a desirable offset for supply. Accordingly, water loss management saw a resurgence of interest in data collection, infrastructure reviews and novel control management.

Under Tony Milburn’s leadership, IAWQ’s publishing activities were combined into a private company that was a wholly owned subsidiary of IAWQ.  IAWQ Publishing expanded rapidly, fulfilling the need for new books and journals in this new era encouraging members to disseminate their views for the benefit of water and society. This change in IAWQ’s publications would underpin the finances and expansion of operations of IAWQ into the next decade, when and where IWA Publishing would become a cornerstone of the new organization.

Following nearly a decade of rapid change as outlined above, the Board of IAWQ and management increasingly came to consensus on a vision of ‘one water’, with a growing emphasis on water use efficiency and water re-use, as water scarcity emerged as an issue in even the most water rich countries.  Promotion of rapid knowledge transfer to operating authorities and strong organisational cultures and corporate management, especially with the influx of private capital, outsourcing of operations and the need for strong governance became the bylines for the decade.

The technical trends and utility restructuring discussion above presaged the converging interests of drinking water utilities, wastewater utilities and those that already did both.  The existence of two organisations with common membership in many cases led to the conclusion that there could be greater strength in a single organisation with multidisciplinary interchanges while preserving the strengths of both entities.

The factors above set in motion a systematic and increasingly detailed discussion of a potential merger of IAWQ and IWSA that spanned several years.  A joint committee of the two organization was formed to develop a detailed picture of the process and begin to define a new organization that joined IAWWQ and IWSA, to be called IWA.  A final decision to merge and create IWA was reached at the IWSA Congress in Buenos Aires.  IWA was formally created in August of 1999.

Distinguished Pioneers – Presidents

President: 1990-1994 (IAWQ)
Petr Grau

Distinguished Pioneers

Ken Ives

David Jenkins