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WEFTEC '04, the Water Environment Federation’s 77th Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, drew an attendance of 16,262 last week at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Held October 2-6, WEFTEC.04 featured 833 companies, covered 201,665 net square feet of sold floor space and offered water quality professionals the latest in water quality research, technology and services.
"WEF understands that the highest priority of water quality professionals is the protection of our most valuable resource - water," said WEF Executive Director Bill Bertera. "WEFTEC’s mission is to provide the water quality community with the necessary tools for managing this finite resource on a regional, national and international basis." Attendees created their own learning experience by choosing from a wide array of educational opportunities including: 95 technical sessions and 23 workshops, a sprawling exhibition floor, seven facility tours, and special events including WEFFilms - a festival featuring three independent films highlighting global water needs.
Conference highlights included a well-attended Opening General Session on Monday, October 4, where the theme of "Water is Water" pervaded. Then-WEF President Lawrence P. Jaworski and keynote speaker Dr. Peter Gleick (President & Co-Founder of the Pacific Institute, Oakland, CA) both delivered remarks about the importance of taking responsibility for water issues on a local, national and global basis. In addition, the program featured a special check presentation to Water for People, an international humanitarian non-profit organization for $25,000; remarks by 2004-2005 WEF President Lynn Orphan; a presentation on watersheds by 2004 Stockholm Water Prize winner Professor William Mitsch (Ohio State University); and recognition of the 2004 Stockholm Junior Water Prize winners.
The following day, as part of the "WEF Celebration of Excellence", Jaworski ceremoniously "passed the gavel" of Federation leadership to Orphan, only the third woman to hold the post of President since the Federation’s 1928 inception. Also inducted were the 2004-2005 WEF Officers: President-Elect J. Michael Read, Vice President Mohamed Dahab and Treasurer Michael Godfrey. The ceremony culminated with the presentation of over 25 awards in recognition of the outstanding achievements of the most talented and dedicated professionals in the water quality community.
Networking and professional opportunities for water professionals, students and young professionals were also available at WEFTEC.04. Over 1,600 international attendees visited the Global Center where conference exhibitors also had the opportunity to meet with buyers and market experts from Asia and Eastern Europe through the assistance of the United States-Asia Environmental Partnership Exchange Program For Sustainable Growth (US-AEP) and Eurasia’s American Partnership For Environmentally Sustainable Economies (ECOLINKS).
WEF’s commitment to education was served through student activities including the Student Design Competition, Student Chapter Meeting, professional development workshops and the Stockholm Junior Water Prize "Walkway to the Future" display. In addition, the popular WEFTeach program celebrated its 10th year and launched Sewer Science, a $250,000 interactive laboratory program, for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish high schools.
Rounding out the conference, the 17th annual Operations Challenge 2004 continued to honor the skills and professionalism of over 200 wastewater professionals competing on thirty-four teams from across North America. Winners included: Division I — Virginia Water Environment Association Fluid Dynamics (1st), Virginia Water Environment Association Team HRSD Bio-Force (2nd), Water Environment Association of Texas TRA CReWSers (3rd); Division II — New England Water Environment Association Seacoast Sewer Snakes (1st), Virginia Water Environment Association Virginia Beach Collectors (2nd) and Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association River Rangers (3rd).
Another exciting feature of WEFTEC.04 was the introduction of onsite sales reservations. Using ExpoCad software/hardware, current exhibitors were able to view live floor space onsite and pre-select space for next year’s conference. Through a series of organized appointments, a total of 546 companies reserved 169,400 of net square footage space for WEFTEC '05 or 65 percent of the total expected exhibition. WEFTEC.05 is scheduled for October 29 through November 2, 2005 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.