Today only few people know that the first ideas for a modern water supply system in Vienna were born during a Europe-wide contest organised in 1860”, said Vienna Waterworks CEO Hans Sailer in his opening address at the event which took place in the Old Gate House (“Alte Schieberkammer”). He also disclosed that the First Vienna Spring Water Pipeline had been designed by a London-born builder and constructed by an Italian company based in England.
“This shows that Vienna’s water sector has an international history”, Sailer said and was convinced that the 2008 World Water Congress would make the Austrian capital again a hub of international water cooperation. “Preparations for the Congress are well under way”, confirmed Congress President Walter Kling. “The 2,400 m2 of exhibition space reserved for the event were already sold out in early November (approx. 650 m2 went to domestic companies – also read below box on the Austrian Pavilion), so that we now need to look for additional space at the Austria Center Vienna (ACV).
In terms of the number of exhibitors, we may well beat the 2006 World Water Congress in Beijing – even though several other prominent global water events are on next year’s agenda!” Kling was also amazed at the overwhelming response to the Call for Papers. The Programme Committee received some 1,400 scientific papers – many of them from Chinese and US presenters. Austrian participation was again enormous, with four times as many papers submitted as for the 2002 World Water Congress in Berlin.
“We now need to select and classify the submissions into the categories Sessions (about 100), Presentations (about 600) and Posters (400)”, said IWA Programmes Officer Tom Williams, who also confirmed the Congress structure outlined by Vienna 2008 Programme Committee Chair Helmut Kroiss in aqua press 2/2007. According to Williams, who attended the Club IWA Meeting in Vienna together with Keith Robertson (IWA Member Services & Programmes), the Congress will see two keynote presentations per day, 20 to 25 workshops, support from WHO, World Bank and SWITCH as Strategic Partners, and a special full-day session on the Danube Region.
Walter Kling also invited Vienna and Austria to join the Proevent: “After furnishing this setting, we do hope that our domestic industry, educational institutions, associations and the media use the great opportunities arising from the 2008 IWA World Water Congress in Vienna and support our commitment especially in the Danube Region.”
With his pointed remark, Vienna 2008 would also be the first World Water Congress where juniors may outcompete seniors with their “official” input, the Congress President also touched on a critical issue: the growing lack of young water professionals. Helmut Kroiss agreed that that was not merely a problem before the backdrop of a looming generation change at international (especially in the USA) and national level: “In times when competitive pressure in the water sector is growing, water enterprises and their staff simply cannot afford to drift into stagnation! What adds to this is that management skills are becoming an increasingly important asset also in plant operation.
And the best time to acquire these skills is during early education and training,” he said. Kroiss also pointed out that especially the passing down of experience from one generation to the next was a huge problem. What in a small country like Austria was still relatively well manageable, would become a downright challenge at global level – aggravated by the persistent lack of data linkage.
“It is the declared goal of IWA’s Young Water Professionals (YWP) to expand this urgently needed network between generations and support young experts in gaining a foothold within the system”, explained Tom Williams, who is one of the masterminds behind the new IWA initiative. The YWP Network, which is already represented in 75 countries worldwide, helps under-35-year-old experts to make best use of IWA’s services (e.g. Specialised Conferences, Leading Edge Conferences) and thus get themselves as well as their national peers involved in the global community.
Also Austria is successful in breeding a new league of water professionals. Katerina Ruzicka and Andreas Gaul are continuously recruiting new Young Water Professionals to join the network; one of them is Georg Grüner, who was called to the Board after serving as water management officer at ÖWAV. Moreover, a programme was developed during summer which comprises the following medium-term activities:
- appointing an Austrian Young Water Professional into the international YWP Committee
- establishing an Austrian YWP database
- linking Austrian YWPs with other YWPs in the Danube Region
- developing a Mentoring Programme and, last but not least,
- making the World Water Congress in Vienna a most successful one!
The next generation of domestic water professionals needs money to accomplish these tasks – and is hoping to find many generous future-oriented sponsors.
(Source: aqua press Int. 4/2007, Mag. Christof Hahan)