The most important event of the year for young professionals – the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference was held in the stunning city of Bath, UK between 10th -12th April 2017. The theme of the conference “A Water World Without Boundaries” was very evident in the diversity of guests from around the world with speciality in different areas relative to water. Attending this event was an energizing experience with a variety of presentations, workshops and discussion sessions to choose from.
The first day kicked off with a welcoming panel discussion on careers in water, after which I attended a water inspiration workshop on public engagement designed around showcasing a public hearing on managing severe water stress in a county – chaired by Patricia Bakir of the International Water Association’s (IWA) Public and Customer Communication Specialist Group (IWA PCCSG). This proved rather interesting, and highlighted cross-sectoral interaction (between the water utility, farmers, low-income and high income earners, the Government, environmental groups etc.) and deliberation to tackle a water issue in a manner that does not impede but facilitates the nexus between water, agriculture and jobs. The workshop, like others being facilitated was very hands-on and engaging and we all were immersing ourselves in our stakeholder roles.
Day 2 was equally rewarding, with platform and flash presenters sharing their works very concisely; around social, cultural, and behavioural as well as technical and policy water solutions. I also delivered a platform presentation on the Message-Actor-Channel (MAC) model of communicative water practices for succinctly examining engagement in water utilities. Flowing from most presentations was the thinking that even though it is sometimes difficult to go outside the box, we must do so to solve the current and potential water problems we may face. I wound down the day wandering around Bath, taking in culture and nature at its best and yes I was at the Roman Baths and drank the spring water! The evening culminated in a fancy gala dinner at the Guildhall with great food, conversation and dancing.
After a remarkable night of barn dancing, we reconvened on the 3rd day to wrap up the conference, discussing the challenges for a water world without boundaries – regulation and infrastructure, people and skills, climate change and population increase, household dwelling distribution, and the agriculture-water-energy nexus. As a young water professional, I strongly believe that to achieve our desired water-future, we all need to play our part; as the future does not come into fruition accidentally but is created by our decisions made and actions taken over time. I get a sense that ours is a tranche of water professionals that are keen to go into communities and take collective action around water whether social and/or technical. Attending the UK-IWA YWP conference has been a rewarding experience for me and reminds me of what is important in our field and in the grand scheme of things – to strive for an impact that makes the world a better place.
Next year, the UK-IWA YWP conference will be hosted in another city; when and where is yet to be announced but I strongly recommend you keep your ear to the ground!