November 26, 2019 SDGs

Re-imagining sanitation and safe drinking water for all

The IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition, 1-5 December 2019, Colombo Sri Lanka.

The Hague, Netherlands, 25 November 2019 – Millions of lives, the environment and economies need sustainable solutions for the pressing water problems. Emerging economies have a unique but fleeting opportunity to change the way they think about water and sanitation.

The IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition is the largest global water event to be held in Southern Asia in 2019. From 1-5 December international water experts from the full width and reach of the water sector will meet in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). At the world’s leading water development event, over 3000 participants from 100 countries will discuss and develop sustainable solutions for emerging economies.

“The SDG’s are inspiring water professionals to re-imagine how they do water and sanitation. IWA believes that it has a pivotal role in supporting the SDGs by sharing knowledge – the innovations in science and practice – that underpins the ‘new-normal’. Emerging economies have a unique but fleeting opportunity to change the way they think about water and sanitation. How is water used – and reused? Should water systems and their accompanying infrastructure and services be centralised or decentralised, linear or circular? Although the potential to do things differently in these emerging areas exist, the window of opportunity to create a more sustainable pathway is relatively small (5-15 years) and hence quick action is needed if one is going to create a paradigm shift”, says IWA Chief Executive Officer, Kala Vairavamoorthy.

Over 4 days, the Congress will be the meeting space that inspires participants to transform water management and to bridge the gap between disciplines, between theory and practice, and to present latest research and best cases in discussions on stage or in the exhibition. The Exhibition is an intrinsic part of the Congress. Here, companies exhibit the latest technology, countries and organisations present their work and approaches in the framework of the Congress theme.


Congress Themes

The IWA Congress brings together practitioners and researchers to discuss and develop solutions for the most pressing water problems. The Congress covers six themes: drinking water treatment and supply; faecal sludge and wastewater treatment for resource recovery; city water and faecal sludge utility management and services; integrated water resources management; and efforts toward SDG 6.

“IWA believes that innovators and institutions can, through a pragmatic alliance with IWA, develop nimble and affordable ways to ‘leapfrog’ the legacy of clunky, costly, centralised, top-down policies and infrastructure towards a more circular and distributed approach to water and sanitation” adds Kala Vairavamoorthy.

The IWA #DevelopmentCongress has a total of 59 sessions, with a focus on finding solutions for challenges such as sanitation and sludge management or new technology in the area of digitalisation. Among the sessions are:

  • Off-grid toilets and decentralised sanitation technologies
  • Creating a new non-sewered sanitation industry
  • Groundwater management and governance
  • Antibiotic resistance in faecal sludge management
  • Increasing sustainability and resilience through digitalisation of water and wastewater services
  • Rainwater harvest management and treatment
  • Capacity building and training approaches for water safety plans
  • China-Sri Lanka collaboration on water and health
  • Major challenges achieving SGD6

Keynote speakers

International water experts with a development focus will inspire participants on Partnerships, Human Rights, rural-urban and circular economies, utility management, resource management and innovation:

  • Doulaye Kone, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Partnerships chain to accelerate the launch of the sanitation industry.
  • Rosie Wheen, WaterAid Australia: Human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.
  • Pay Drechsel, International Water Management Institute: Resource recovery & reuse business models
  • Silver Mugisha, National Water and Sewerage Corporation of Uganda: Utility management in emerging economies.
  • Madhu Krishna, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Ensuring a diverse and fair water and sanitation sector.
  • Valeria Naidoo, Water Research Commission (South Africa): Innovation to overcome global water challenges.

IWA Water and #DevelopmentCongress in numbers

  • 6 themes
  • 59 sessions
  • 122 poster presentations
  • 27 workshops
  • 4 Forums
  • 90 exhibitors


The Exhibition showcases leading edge technologies and projects from over 90 exhibitors from all over the world, including pavilions from the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, India, China, Hungary, Spain, as well as an Emerging Technologies Programme. Sri Lanka is represented with many government organizations, utilities, knowledge institutes and technology providers. Within the exhibition a daily Business Forum programme presenting sustainable solutions for emerging economies.

Register as media and book your interview with world leading water experts. Free registration for accredited media professionals here: Media Accreditation

Useful information

Media contacts


About the IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition 2019

The 2019 IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition is the 6th edition of this world leading event. Gathering water professionals with leading practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to understand challenges, solutions and development opportunities in other regions of the world is the aim of the IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition. Bringing together water science and research with the public and private sectors, financial institutions and policymakers, to drive water cooperation and water solutions that can be applied globally, the IWA Development Congress features a mix of workshops, seminars, plenary sessions, side events, award ceremonies, poster sessions and an exhibition programme.

Previous editions of the IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition:

  • 2017 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2015 – Dead Sea, Jordan
  • 2013 – Nairobi, Kenya
  • 2011 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 2009 – Mexico City, Mexico


About the IWA

The International Water Association is the largest international network of water professionals working towards a water-wise world. With members in more than 140 countries and over 70 years heritage, the association focuses on developing solutions for water and wastewater management. As a knowledge hub for the latest science, technology and best practice in the water sector at large, the IWA works to place water on the global political agenda and to influence best practice in regulation and policymaking. The IWA is a global water association that brings together water professionals to close the gap between sciences and practice to provide solutions to the water challenges the world is facing.