A Merging of Interests –Industrial Water & Wastewater

For the first time in 65 years, the International Water Conference won't be held in Pittsburgh. Instead, Orlando hosts the 66th annual event next fall with a return trip to the Iron City in 2006.

by Carlos David Mogollón

For the first time in 65 years, the International Water Conference won't be held in Pittsburgh. Instead, Orlando hosts the 66th annual event next fall with a return trip to the Iron City in 2006. The move is an effort by the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania, its sponsor, to reconcile with the times and test the waters of alternate venues.

Why?

Like many trade shows and conferences, attendance has fallen – in this case, from about 1,000 to under 500 over a decade. (This year's Industrial Water Conference, hosted by Industrial WaterWorld, was suspended for a similar fall in preregistration.) ESWP executive director Dave Teorsky said IWC '04 suffered a 12% drop in attendees. He and others at IWC are looking forward to Orlando as a new beginning to grow the event. They're supplementing traditional themes of boiler water, cooling water and membrane technology with desalination and water recycle and reuse as added topics in three days of concurrent technical sessions, augmented by the fourth year of an exhibit hall with up to 40 exhibitors.

At the same time, though, they're staying open to options and gave a fair hearing to Water Quality Association executive director Peter Censky, whose keynote address focused on the need for consolidation among water treatment industry events. As such, at its worst attended event in over 10 years, WQA agreed last spring to partner with Aquatech RAI to manage its trade show. The goal is to bring North American players in the residential, commercial and industrial water and wastewater markets under one big umbrella. Not everyone felt the WQA, whose primary client historically is the residential water equipment dealer, was the best fit – but they liked its education and professional certification program, which is looking to add an "industrial water specialist" to its offering.

"The fractured nature of the industry he described, I would agree with," said James Datesh, general chairman for the IWC '04 event, a past president of the Association of Water Technologies, and CEO of Dacar Industries, regarding Censky's address. "The compatibility of the various pieces poses a question." How do the fiercely independent individual event hosts benefit if there's is one swallowed up by the group since "the purposes of the group aren't necessarily aligned"? Good question.

I should point out the article by Richard Presley, which ran in our September/October issue on p. 6, was a summary of a paper presented at IWC '03 by the Hach Company. We plan on working more closely with IWC organizers to get more papers presented there published in Industrial WaterWorld.

An event not suffering from a lack of attendees was WEFTEC.04 in New Orleans – the largest water industry show in the Americas – which pulled in over 16,000 people to its exhibit halls Oct. 2-6. Remote sensors, analytical systems and process controls for security assurance, predictive management and regulatory reporting of water and wastewater facilities was all the rage.

I noticed, though, the Water Environment Federation didn't have the Industrial Waste Conference, which I attended in August, listed among its 2005 events. That event drew some 285 people. While enthusiastic, the sparse numbers among this and the IWC attendees, I noticed, were beginning to frustrate exhibitors who not only spend thousands on booths but also hospitality suites to entertain customers.

Increasingly evident at these smaller niche industrial events is end-users don't seem to be showing up in numbers sufficient to support their multitude. In that sense, Censky is right. Consolidation would help. But niche consolidation would be better than these shows getting lost in a WEFTEC or Aquatech. Even then, better marketing needs to be done to draw out decision-makers to whom manufactures wish to present their wares. Therein lies the challenge.

Carlos David Mogollón, Managing Editor

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