BioCycle July 2007, Vol. 48, No. 7, p. 4
During the last week of June, an international conference – Moving Forward: Wastewater Biosolids Sustainability – was held in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. The event was organized and hosted by the Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission, and cosponsored by the International Water Association.
Close to 50 countries were represented at the conference. Papers were roughly divided into two general tracks, Technical-Scientific and Managerial and Public Synergy.
While the technical sessions I attended were very educational, what stood out most during the conference was the opportunity to learn about water and waste-water issues around the globe. Each morning, the conference began with a Plenary Session titled “Global Perspectives.” The first morning, June 25th, opened with papers by representatives from the United Nations, World Bank and World Health Organization. Following a morning break, the plenary session continued with perspectives from the United Kingdom, the U.S., China, Austria and Australia. Day Two brought papers from New Zealand, Canada, Russia and South Africa, and on the final day, we heard from Italy and Brazil.
My notebook is full of “random” statistics including: Australia, suffering from a severe drought, needs to reduce water consumption by 40 percent by 2025; 80-plus percent of people in the Lake Victoria region of Kenya do not have access to sanitation; “Excreta” in Kabul, Afghanistan is mixed with solid waste and disposed in a site built in a stream bed.
Seasonal floods wash through the stream bed, carrying the garbage and excreta along; China generated 1.8 million tons of dry sewage sludge in 2005, with 80 percent landfilled and 15 percent composted; Russia pioneered thermophilic digesters for wastewater treatment in the 1930s. Today, there has been a decrease in anaerobic digesters because the biogas isn’t needed. At the same time, there is an increase in composting; South Africa has 40 million people – 3.4 million do not have access to water and 15.2 million are without sanitation.
I’ll stop there with my random facts and figures and move on to the larger point. So many international technical and research symposiums jump into presentation of papers after a brief, opening plenary session. In many cases, that is necessary to fit in all the papers accepted. The downside is that there isn’t an opportunity to learn from the delegates who have traveled from all corners of the world, who share a common interest in specific topics – in this case sustainable water and wastewater management. The fact that the organizers of the Moncton conference ensured that all the delegates could gain a global perspective around a common interest(s) was incredibly valuable. We could gain a realistic sense of how various levels of technologies can be applied across the globe, and how those higher up on the learning curve can work with countries that are starting from scratch to apply appropriate solutions. I truly believe that many delegates at this conference left with a sense of wanting to share, to help, to reach out and, most importantly, to learn from each other. An excellent foundation of global connections has been laid to tackle water resource issues around the world.