WEFTEC19: Career Programs, Innovation Grants, ReGeneration and More Launch in Chicago



With over 22,000 attendees and 992 exhibitors, WEFTEC 2019 in Chicago was one of the largest WEFTEC’s in the last decade. The event is one of the largest conferences and exhibitions for water professionals.

The massive gathering of water pros this September (including a few thousand Californians!) was an opportunity for WEF to announce several initiatives to keep the water profession on the cutting edge…

  1. ReGeneration is the theme for WEF this year
  2. The ReNEW dashboard – tracking Nutrients, Energy and Water captured and recycled by WRRFs
  3. Department of Energy Water Desalination Innovation Hub and $40M in research funding
  4. DOE also announced the Wastewater Resource Recovery Prize Competition for projects at small and mid-sized WRRFs (details still to come)
  5. InFLOW program – Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water to open up the world of water to students from underrepresented groups
  6. EPA’s Water Workforce outreach efforts

With Regeneration “we decided to showcase how recycling, renewing, and repurposing can be applied to any number of things. Even reusing this conference theme again from last year. ReGeneration is a global movement that’s made up of people from many nationalities and diverse backgrounds who are passionate about sustaining the earth’s natural environment,” said Tom Kunetz, WEF President during his opening session speech.

WEF President Tom Kunetz and Executive Director Walt Marlowe

For the WEF President this moment in time is an opportunity to help the next generation of water professionals achieve success.

“I believe the best gift we can leave behind is to truly exemplify this idea of ReGeneration by re-creating our industrial systems and management practices to be regenerative, not solely generative. If we are to be consumers, let us also be producers. Let us build an economy in which resources that are taken from the earth are replenished, not depleted,” Tom said.

During the WEF Awards Ceremony several Californian’s were honored, including:

  • WEF Fellow – Adel Hagekhalil, City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Street Services (and previously with LA Sanitation and Environment)
  • WEF Fellow – JB Neethling, HDR
  • Operator Ingenuity Award – William (Bill) Paddock SOCWA for his invention of a fisheye filtration system (fisheyes = globs of polymer)
  • Operator Ingenuity Award – James Petalio of the Rodeo Sanitary District for his quick and cost saving fix to cut back on chlorine dosing alarms after hours
  • Operational and Design Excellence Award – Collection Systems – Luis Roberto Leon, CDM Smith
  • WEF Project Excellence Award – City of Manteca WQCF Digester Improvements Project Phase I and Compressed Biogas Fueling Facilities Project Phase II
  • Education Award – Fair Distinguished Engineering Educator Medal – Michael K. Stenstrom, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Public Communication & Outreach Program Awards – Roseville Utility Exploration Center
  • Published Paper – McKee Groundwater Protection, Restoration or Sustainable Use Award – “Sustainability Assessment for Indirect Potable Reuse: A Case Study from Reno, NV.” Laura Haak, Vijay Sundaram, and Krishna Pagilla, WER 2018, v. 90

Remembering Those We Lost

Closing the conference, new WEF President Jackie Jarrel reflected on the WEF members we lost this year in several incidents. The crowd gathered to honor the workers killed with a moment of silence:

  • The water professionals and WEF members killed in the City of Virginia Beach shooting
  • Employees of the Mueller Valve Co. killed during a workplace shooting. Mueller is a major manufacturer in the water sector

Jackie wanted to be sure we place emphasis on grappling with the changing water workforce as more and more professionals retire.

“As you know, this past year, our focus was specifically on Diversity and Inclusion. That focus is not going away.  We are just getting started,” Jackie said. “It’s critical we welcome and embrace diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences as we engage with people in our communities to consider a career in water.”

“In the end, it’s all about the people.  We cannot innovate, advocate or create without people. We need you.  Your dedication, your passion and your talent have improved WEF and the water sector,” said Jackie.

WEFTEC 2020 is in New Orleans, October 3-7. Abstracts are being accepted until Dec 2nd – so get applying and we’ll see you in New Orleans!

For details on the LA Wrecking Crew competing in the Ops Challenge, click here >

Photos by CWEA Members