The American Water Summit took place on October 24th – 26th 2018 at the Loews Hotel, Philadelphia, PA. The conference brought together over 300 executives and business leaders from across the North American water sector, including thought leaders from the financial sector, technology sector, industry, and local and federal government. Discussing ‘Inspiring Innovation’ the two-day conference showcased new and emerging talent, examining the threats facing the water industry now and in the future, and demonstrating the wealth of opportunities available in the North American market.
The American Water Summit 2018 opened on Wednesday 24th October 2018 with a pre-conference workshop focused on Accelerating the Digital Utility: Making procurement, return on investment, and objectives work for water. Chaired by George Hawkins, former General Manager of DC Water, the workshop began by giving the speakers, each from utilities across the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, an opportunity to offer their unique perspectives on how best to accelerate the adoption of smart solutions.
Further speakers from Clean Water Services, Arcadis, Jacobs, XPV Water Partners and PRASA then broke down the procurement and cost benefit analysis of how utilities begin investing in, and procuring, digital solutions. The event ended with a workshop challenge, with attendees lending their expertise to try to establish a solution to some of the biggest roadblocks.
The conference’s Day 1 Opening Plenary followed on Thursday October 25th, with an Opening Address by the US Department of Energy’s Secretary Rick Perry. Secretary Perry announced the Water Security Grand Challenge at the Summit, which is a joint effort by the US EPA and US Department of Energy, aiming to advance technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure and affordable water.
Rich Karlgaard, Publisher and Global Futurist at Forbes gave the Keynote Presentation, with an opening discussion panel by Debra Coy, Partner at XPV Water Partners, alongside Andy Kricun, Executive Director at the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Erin Boeke Burke, US Public Finance, S&P Global and Howard Neukrug, Senior Advisor for the Global Water Leaders Group.
The Summit’s two-day agenda featured a variety of expert-led sessions, roundtables and presentations relating to the three session strands: Finance & Strategy, CTO Forum, and Water Leaders. Finance & Strategy navigated the new business and investment models that will define the water industry in the years to come, while CTO Forum explored the opportunities for forward-thinking solutions providers. Finally, the Water Leaders strand showcased the utility led innovation which is recasting the water sector from the ground up.
As part of the American Water Summit, the Leading Utilities of the World global network took time to induct four new members to the initiative: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, USA; Alexandria Renew, USA; Denver Water, USA; Northumbrian Water, UK. Leading Utilities of the World is a network of the world’s most forward-thinking water and wastewater utilities, as defined by the network’s 14 distinct innovation areas. Its members represent the gold standard of utility innovation and performance throughout the developed world’s water sector.
The American Water Summit stands at the forefront of advances in the industry, with the agenda guided by Global Water Intelligence’s (GWI) market leading research and analysis. In 2018 this was demonstrated in a session entitled ‘What Does a Great Water Future Look Like?’ held as part of the CTO Forum strand. This historic session brought together next generation utility leaders to discuss their vision of a water utility in the year 2040 and gave many attendees a hopeful outlook on the future of the industry. Dana Gonzalez, Hampton Roads Sanitation District; Raul Gonzalez, Hampton Roads Sanitation District; Tera Fong, DC Water; Aisha Niang, Houston Water; Serge Haddad, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Stephanie Chiorean, Philadelphia Water Department; and Abby Sullivan, Philadelphia Water Department gave presentations outlining their goals for the future of utilities.
The Gala Dinner, held on the evening of October 25th, featured a presentation by photographer Ed Burtynsky of Toronto Image Works, whose collection, aptly entitled ‘Water’, showcased the various ways water, or the lack of water, affects change on the environment. Mr. Burtynsky also showed part of an upcoming film documentary, The Anthropocene Project.
Day 2 of the Summit saw the highly anticipated CEOs Panel. In this session Andy Seidel of UGSI Solutions joined senior executives from Aclara, SUEZ North America, Black & Veatch, Jacobs, Mueller Water Products, and Xylem, to discuss how the water sector is addressing the needs of a rising population, unpredictable weather patterns, and an increasingly data-driven economy.
The New Economics of the Regulatory Frontier panel particularly captured the attention of delegates as it focused on microcontaminants removals, with emphasis on PFAS, one of the microcontaminants of greatest concern for the US EPA. The discussion revolved largely around what PFAS are and how they came about, how PFAS gained national attention and concern, available technologies for PFAS removal, transparency and response to the public. We heard from several solutions providers from CDM Smith, Calgon Carbon, AECOM, and Evoqua on available technologies and persistent problems, in addition to hearing from Mike Pickel with Horsham Water and Sewer on how his utility approached the problem, implemented solutions and communicated with the public.
The American Water Summit 2018 agenda culminated in the Closing Panel on Thursday October 26th giving an international perspective on the global water market. GWI’s Publisher, Christopher Gasson, hosted a panel of industrial and municipal water sector experts for a discussion of what the North American water sector must learn from the rest of the world. Speakers included Sue Murphy, CEO of the Water Corporation, Australia, John Gibson, President and COO at Veolia North America, Heiner Markhoff, CEO at SUEZ Water Technologies and Solutions, and Thierry Noel, Director at Amane Advisors.