Where Young People Can Speak Their Mind

With its Young Water Professionals Network, IWA has launched a joint platform for young researchers and professionals working in the water industry which now needs to be boosted into life

The International Water Association (IWA) seeks to link scientific and economic know-how together. In this global association of urban water management that has emerged from IWSA and IAWQ, not only people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, but also different generations need to communicate with each other. Communication gaps have particularly occurred between generations: just take the example of the young female student who doesn’t dare to tell her senior teacher that he has made an error in reasoning.

This is exactly the point which the new Young Water Professionals (YWP) Network launched under the umbrella of IWA seeks to address. While representing the interests of the global association, YWP is an information exchange network reserved to under-35-yearolds that avails itself of the new forms of expression among young people all over the world. After a round of exploratory talks in Marrakech (2004), YWP finally saw the light of day at the 2006 IWA World Water Congress in Beijing.

The Sunday before the big opening ceremony was dedicated to organising the first YWP meetings and setting up the YWP Committee. After all, despite YWP’s primary focus on young expert needs, networking with renowned colleagues who are widely experienced in areas such as publishing scientific papers is essential. The Beijing Conference attracted many reputed water professionals and was therefore an excellent opportunity to support YWP’s case.

The new network currently receives most of its support from the IWA Headquarters in London. In summer, for example, the latter spent much time browsing the IWA global members directory for water experts under 35 years of age. The new IWA membership application forms already contain a box that YWP can tick. Moreover, IWA London urges the National Committees to search for young people interested in becoming YWP members.

Austria was among the first national organisations to assist in the development of the new network. Viennese wastewater expert Helmut Kroiss (who chairs the Programme Committee for the 2008 IWA World Water Congress in Vienna) has proven a perfect liaison between IWA and the young water talents. Kroiss is Vice-President of the Austrian National Commitee of IWA and also heads the Institute for Water Quality, Resources and Waste Management at the Vienna University of Technology. He is therefore in an excellent position to bring YWP closer to young researchers. The smart move of nominating the Austrian YWP representative also for IWA National Committee membership is partly owed to him.

YWP seeks more participants from East Danube region

It is hardly surprising that Austria’s first Young Water Professional comes from the research team behind Helmut Kroiss. Katerina Ruzicka, an assistant lecturer at the institute currently writing her doctoral thesis, is already hard at work establishing a national YWP network. At first searching around the scientific community, Ruzicka soon started to collaborate with the two IWA National Committee executives Andreas Gaul (ÖWAV) and Manfred Eisenhut (ÖVGW) to recruit YWP from the entire Austrian water sector.

Together with the two executives, the young expert for river basin management has meanwhile drafted an initial concept for a YWP work programme in Austria (see box). The next step will be to build relationships to YWP in other countries. Ruzicka deplores the lack of YWP colleagues in Eastern Danube countries, which is why currently peer contacts can only be established with Great Britain and Germany.

YWP is designed as a non-profit network seeking to draw benefit from IWA’s ample expertise. YWP can also count on support from the global association in organising technical conferences and international meetings, but does not receive financial aid. Experts believe that the network still has good chances of success provided it can be “filled with life”. And indeed, a network would be needed that helps young experts in joining the water community, offers them guidance on how to present and publish scientific papers and operates an international job exchange, a platform linking research and industry (such as for research contracts), or simply a platform for experience exchange among peers.
(Source: aqua press Int. 3/2007, Mag. Christof Hahn)

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