With lead and other challenging water quality issues in daily headlines, more than 12,000 water professionals are gathering in Chicago this week to explore solutions during the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE16).
During a packed Opening General Session at the McCormick Place West Convention Center, AWWA CEO David LaFrance drew from Chicago’s history to demonstrate how water professionals have always overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles, pointing out that the city reversed the flow of the Chicago River in just seven years.
“We’ve all been hearing about lead in water,” LaFrance said. “How can we protect families today while we work for a lead-free future? … It is certainly complicated, but definitely possible. The bottom line is water professionals always find a way to take what is complicated and make it possible.”
ACE16 is the longest running water conference in the world, having first convened in 1881 as communities sought to conquer once-common waterborne diseases. This week’s event, which concludes Wednesday, will feature several hundred presentations in 19 professional tracks and an exposition of more than 500 companies.
In his keynote address, AWWA President Gene Koontz stressed that today’s water professionals must improve as communicators to assure consumers will have confidence in tap water.
“Despite all of our successes, we find that new water quality issues constantly surface, whether they be old enemies like lead, or new ones like perfluorinated compounds,” Koontz said. “We will need empathy to understand the needs of each one of our customers, no matter what their background or status. Assurances that everything is OK is not good enough when even one of our customers has legitimate concerns or unmet needs.”
During the opening session, the Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore pointed out that apparent changes to the water cycle – whether they be from climate change or other factors – are worthy of attention from water professionals as they manage their resources.
The Opening General Session was be sponsored by HomeServe, a leading provider of home emergency repair service plans.