Forum Presentations Now Available to All Online

From water utilities’ climate resiliency planning efforts to the actions underway today to address drought, sea level rise and extreme weather events, the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum offered the most innovative thinking, best approaches and convincing case studies of any conference on water and climate change so far.  More than 200 water sector representatives came away with ideas and inspiration for moving ahead to address climate change challenges to the world’s water systems. These important water/climate resources are now available online to both attendees and the interested public.

The Forum was launched with a video highlighting several metropolitan mayors discussing the actions their cities are taking to become more climate resilient. The discussions that followed began with provocative insights on risk from Professor Simon Pollard of Cranfield University in the U.K. and closed with a call to action from Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Pat Mulroy.  In between were talks ranging from theoretical to practical and strategic to tactical.

The Forum’s presentations, audio podcasts and videos can all be accessed by visiting the Presentations tab.

Forum Reflections: A Celebration of Progress and Vision For Future Milestones

If you attended the Forum in December – thank you!  You should have received in your inbox on January 7 an invitation to take a survey to provide your feedback about the event. Your feedback is critical to helping us assess how valuable the Forum was for attendees and also consider what future forums will look like.

Also, presentations and podcasts will be posted on this site very soon. We’ll post a new blog once they are up. We are also developing a report of the key items and outcomes from the Forum.

City of Rotterdam's Paula Verhoeven speaking at the 2015 Forum.

City of Rotterdam’s Paula Verhoeven speaking at the 2015 Forum.

Participants from North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa learned about “on the ground” activities utilities are performing to plan for and address drought, sea level rise and a host of extreme weather events and future climate and urban uncertainties.  More than 200 water sector representatives came away with ideas and inspiration for moving ahead to address climate change challenges to the world’s water systems.

Envisioned as a follow-up event to the 2010 Forum, where speakers discussed initial plans to understand and address potential climate impacts, the 2015 Forum included illustrations and case studies of how utilities and communities are becoming more resilient, demonstrating just how much progress has been made in five years.

Closing speaker Pat Mulroy summed up the event well when she said that the discussions at the Forum made clear that despite the uncertainties of the future, the water utility industry has demonstrated it is reimagining, reinventing and re-envisioning itself to the challenges presented by climate change.  A key thread of the Forum, she noted, was one of strategic partnerships between different levels of government, watershed neighbors, technology companies, customers and beyond. This thread was one of many from the event that demonstrated that utilities are transitioning from reactive to proactive solutions to become more resilient.

Nearly every Forum speaker discussed the role of partnerships in their resilience and strategic planning to address climate change impacts. She pulled other threads that were woven throughout the Forum: the need for resilient regulatory and governance structures, and the need for human capital, human acumen and social strategies that can be connected to infrastructure strategies. Forum speakers and attendees represented the luminaries in climate resilience but with that, she concluded, comes the responsibility to lead, guide and persuade people to start thinking differently.

Organizing a Sustainable Event

One critical facet of the International Water & Climate Forum that you will not find on the agenda is the meeting’s sustainable event management system – which is compliant with ISO 20121 . Following an event management system that is compliant with this standard will pervade all aspects of the meeting – some apparent, some more hidden – in ways that will both reduce the Forum’s environmental impact while offering useful lessons in resilience and sustainability to attendees.

Developed as an international standard to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics, the ISO 20121 – Event Sustainability Management System Standard offers best practices and a business framework that organizers can use to manage events and control their social, economic and environmental impacts.

Staging any event can generate negative impacts such as material waste, energy consumption and strains on local communities. Following the standard at the Forum will help the event leave behind a positive legacy while serving as a model for improving the sustainability of future meetings.

What does it mean for the Forum to operate in line with ISO 20121 principles? Most notably, the Forum has established several targets and objectives. They promote staff and key event stakeholder involvement and define management responsibilities and event hosting goals. Each objective features detailed key performance indicators and targets that were set with the aim of achieving continual improvement in event performance.

More broadly, the Forum will focus on four sustainable management practices that are governed by principles of inclusivity, integrity, stewardship and transparency:

  • Partnerships with event hosts;
  • Education of vendors, partners and attendees to achieve environmental, social and economic benefits;
  • Minimizing event environmental impacts and
  • Improving local economic impacts associated with the event.

Finally, the Forum website and other information provided at the event will offer multiple opportunities to learn about, support and benefit from the triple-bottom-line values of this and other ISO 20121 sustainable events.

Achieving a sustainable international forum will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile both in terms of environmental benefits and lessons that attendees can take home.

Miami and Denver – Addressing Climate in Very Different Water Environments

miami+denver1What makes the 2015 International Water & Climate Forum different from its successful predecessor, the 2010 Climate Change Impacts on Water: An International Adaptation Forum? This year’s Forum will shift the focus from policy discussions to the reality of what’s happening at urban water, wastewater and stormwater systems around the globe.To obtain that on-the-ground intelligence, the Forum is inviting many of the recognized trailblazers in climate adaptation and mitigation at water utilities throughout the world to speak. Just recently, Doug Yoder, deputy director of Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, and Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO and manager, committed to present their utilities’ forward-looking programs to deal with climate impacts. Both systems are among the largest in the U.S., and they face very different changes and challenges.

Doug Yoder will speak on the topic of communicating climate change. He will provide insights and examples of how the department is working to adapt to the impacts of climate change while communicating with customers, elected officials and other stakeholders about the need for and benefits of adaptation. And this is in a state where state environment officials have been banned from using the terms climate change or global warming in official communications and reports!

Jim Lochhead will present a case study on how Denver Water is implementing adaptation measures. The utility participates in regional and national collaborations with water utilities, scientists and researchers and works with the Front Range Climate Change group to develop useful climate models. In addition, Denver Water incorporates climate change into its long-range water planning, customer conservation programs, supply diversification, greenhouse gas reductions and other initiatives.

These two extraordinary water executives are valuable additions to our program, bringing their perspectives and experience from two very different climactic regions.

Photo credits:  Captain Tucker (Miami) and Matt Wright (Denver).

Carl Ganter: An International Perspective on Climate Change Policy

While progress on climate change policy has highs and lows from year to year and country to country, on the international front climate policy continues to move in promising directions. On the frontline of climate change journalism is J. Carl Ganter, co-founder and director of Circle of Blue, the internationally recognized center for original reporting, research and analysis on resource issues with a focus on the intersection between water, food and energy. The Forum is very fortunate to have him on the program to give us his take on current developments in international climate change policy.

j-carl-ganter-720-720-590x590In 2012, Ganter received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centennial Innovation Award for developing a “unique, multi-disciplinary approach to documenting and reporting on the global freshwater crisis.” Circle of Blue’s non-advocacy, on-the-ground journalism makes complex issues understandable and provides trusted information and data that connects local stories to global trends. To link policymakers, scientists, academics, businesses and the general public, Circle of Blue uses emerging technologies and creative processes – in collaboration with organizations such as Google – to develop interactive “big data” projects and global surveys that make climate issues relevant and personal.

Ganter serves as vice-chairman of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Water Security, a group of leading experts from business, government, academia and the general public that provides thought leadership to the WEF’s activities on water security. For many years he has also served on the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Navigating Peace Water Working Group, which produces policy papers on global water policies.

Insider perspectives generated from these many involvements make Carl Ganter an ideal source of knowledge on international climate change policy for Forum participants. Among other critical topics, he will talk about the discussions that will be taking place at COP 21 in Paris and how these relate to discussions at the Forum about water resilience strategies at urban utilities in light of climate change impacts. His unique insights on the international policy scene promise to be a highlight of the Forum.

Sharing Best Practices: Paula Verhoeven

Museumpark Rotterdam, an underground water storage facility with a capacity of 10 million litres (roughly 2.6 million gallons)

Museumpark Rotterdam, an underground water storage facility with a capacity of 10 million litres (roughly 2.6 million gallons)

In its aim to refocus the discussion of water/climate adaptation and mitigation to what’s being done by communities “on the ground,” the Forum is fortunate to have Paula Verhoeven on its program. Her long-time interest in climate-related issues, particularly in the area of water management, is reflected in her involvement and leadership in the many sustainability initiatives of the city of Rotterdam.

Verhoeven played a key role in the development of the first comprehensive Rotterdam Water Plan and built strong partnerships with industry and academia through the Rotterdam Climate Initiative.

So what is Rotterdam doing “on the ground” to mitigate and adapt to climate change?

  • One approach is water plazas that fill up in a controlled manner during heavy rainfall, preventing surrounding streets from flooding. The city’s Benthemplein Water Square opened in late 2013. The square retains water during peak rainfall and doubles as an urban public space. The lowered areas designed to retain water can be repurposed for sports and recreational use during dry weather.
  • To integrate water storage with the urban environment, Rotterdam actively encourages the installation of green roofs that absorb precipitation, reducing both the speed of rainwater runoff and pressure on the sewerage system during heavy rainfall. Green roofs are mandatory for municipal buildings, and the city has a program to subsidize the installation of green roofs on privately owned buildings.
  • The city is also pursuing use of multifunctional garages to deal with stormwater overflow. The Museumpark is an underground water storage facility with a capacity of 10 million liters (roughly 2.6 million gallons), making it the largest underground water storage facility in the Netherlands. When a downpour is over, the rainwater is pumped into the sewers and discharged in the usual manner.

We’re looking forward to sharing with Paula Verhoeven her insights and experiences on these and other water and climate initiatives at the Forum.

From Solutions To Implementation

Raül Glotzbach, with the International Water Association – one of the International Water & Climate Forum’s co-organizers, recently blogged about climate change’s impacts on urbanized areas and the need to move toward implementation of solutions.

“In Europe, about 75% of the population lives in urban areas – a figure that is likely to increase in the coming years,” Raül writes. “This means a growing demand for water and sanitation provisions. New solutions, ones that can be effectively – cost effective, carbon and energy efficient, etc. – implemented in cities, will be required to deal with the new paradigm.”

IWA2-25-2015 blogIWA and its partners are already showing what is possible. For instance, the European Union-funded PREPARED project, which is aimed at enabling the water sector to better adapt and cope with climate change, highlights that city water supply and sanitation systems and their catchment areas can adapt and be resilient to the challenges of climate change.

Likewise, the International Water and Climate Forum will support the transition from solutions to implementation by connecting water research and technology with high profile water utility managers and CEOs. These water leaders are well positioned to influence implementation of the many solutions at our disposal today, and they will demonstrate how this can be achieved at the Forum in December.

Read Raül’s full blog, From Solutions To Implementation.

Innovating, Mitigating, Adapting and Evolving: DC Water

Recently, DC Water General Manager and CEO George Hawkins blogged about his utility’s innovative research in support of its new CAMBI thermal hydrolysis and digester system. The digester will reduce the agency’s greenhouse gas footprint, enhance the utility’s resilience and ultimately save customers money.

Cambi-1“This incredible benefit is just one demonstration of the value of our research program at Blue Plains. Research doesn’t always pan out, but when it does, the return can be immense, as this example illustrates,” he wrote.

Innovation in research, greenhouse gas mitigation, climate resilience – DC Water’s work embodies many of the key topics to be discussed during the International Water and Climate Forum. From Washington, D.C., to California, Australia to the Netherlands, in urban utilities around the world, utility managers are innovating, mitigating, adapting and evolving. I hope you’ll make plans to join your utility peers December 7-9, 2015 to discuss what’s working on the ground, and how to keep the momentum going.

By Diane VanDe Hei

Diane VanDe Hei is executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies. AMWA is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water utilities in the U.S.

Who Should Attend the Forum?

Invitations to the Forum were emailed to hundreds of water and wastewater utility managers in late January. Additional invitations to water sector utility leaders, scientists, researchers and government agency representatives will be sent in February. If you didn’t receive an invitation and wish to attend, please let us know.

Here’s who should attend the Forum:

  • Water, wastewater and stormwater utility leaders (CEOs, GMs, Presidents);
  • Utility managers working in the areas of climate change, resilience and sustainability;
  • Government agency representatives working in these areas;
  • NGO and government scientists and researchers working on decision relevant science and innovations to advance on the ground progress for utilities and communities in adaptation and resilience; and
  • Policymakers in climate change, resilience, sustainability and greenhouse gas mitigation.

If you fall into one of these categories and wish to be invited, visit the Registration page and complete the Invitation Request form. Consultants, contractors and other non-utility corporations may attend by becoming a Forum sponsor.

Here is what Forum attendees can expect:

  • An exchange of knowledge, applications and innovative practices about adaptation and mitigation strategies and measures,
  • Exposure for water utility managers to the implementation approaches underway at urban water utilities around the world,
  • Conversations between climate scientists and utility managers to continue to foster applied research to serve the water community, and
  • Ample time for making contacts and sharing insights during breakout group discussions, extended breaks, luncheons and receptions.

If you already received an invitation, claim your spot soon. We expect a sell-out crowd!