Destination Daegu: LET 2023

Daegu © Shutterstock / Sanga Park

The forthcoming edition of IWA’s Leading Edge Conference in Korea will shine a light on water innovation, at what will be the 20th anniversary edition. Erika Yarrow-Soden previews the event.

Under the theme of ‘Achieving Sustainability Through Water Technology’, IWA’s Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies (LET) will take place from 29 May to 2 June, in Daegu, South Korea. Although it is the 18th edition, a break because of COVID-19 before last year’s Reno event means this year marks the 20th anniversary of this world-leading conference. It has a reputation for excellence as the forum for leading researchers to share and debate pioneering science, technological innovation and leading practices that will provide solutions to emerging and persistent water challenges.

Initiator of the series Jonathan Clement says: “This is a milestone that should be recognised and celebrated.

“We’ve themed the conference around sustainability. This recognises that the drivers for innovation and technology development have changed. We have the technology to remove pretty much anything from water, but the real question is how we do that in a more sustainable way. It opens the door to so many more things. It means lower energy, fewer chemicals, and progress towards zero liquid discharge.

“The network of people involved in this are the best of the best in the world. They are the scientists and technologists who are leading the game.

“When LET began, the focus was mostly on academics, but we have now grown to include utilities, with the Utility Leaders Forum.”

New opportunities

This is the first time that LET has been to South Korea, and it is forging new partnerships with the Korean water sector and universities, creating the opportunity for dialogue and driving opportunities for innovation. For example, low energy desalination will be one of the hot topics to be discussed.

Plenary speakers

Jaehong Kim © Tony Fiorini

Jaehong Kim, Henry P Becton Sr Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University, is a plenary speaker whose research focuses on the environmental application of nanomaterials and single atom catalysts and catalytic/electrocatalytic advanced oxidation processes. His presentation will focus on his research into catalytic membrane technology. He explains: “I will summarise the papers that we published recently, focusing on developing a catalytic membrane.

“A membrane is a passive barrier to ‘physically’ remove pollutants that are larger than the membrane’s pore size. That means pollutants (often small organics) that are smaller than the pores of the membrane can pass through. Our research has been focusing on endowing a chemical property to this membrane that can catalytically destroy pollutants that pass through it. With these properties combined, pollutants are removed, both physically and chemically.”

Samuel Chui

Samuel Chui, Director of the Environmental Protection Department of the Hong Kong SAR Government and Adjunct Professor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has been working in the field of wastewater treatment for 30 years. He will be sharing his insights on Hong Kong’s territory-wide COVID-19 sewage surveillance programme.

He explains: “The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously affected the whole world in the past three years. Being an international city, Hong Kong has also suffered from the pandemic. Since December 2020, the Hong Kong Government has been using sewage SARS-CoV-2 virus surveillance to facilitate informed planning of intervention measures for combating the pandemic.

“Over the past three years, the surveillance programme has helped to identify more than 26,000 hidden cases and provided accurate real-time estimations of the number of cases in Hong Kong.”

Anticipating innovation exchange

With keynotes such as these, and an excellent wider technical programme, the event is set to be a fitting 20th anniversary edition.

Last year, the then conference president, Professor Bruce Rittmann, noted the contribution that the LET series makes, commenting: “LET provides the ideal space for sharing practical knowledge and stimulating further research and innovation for a sustainable, water-wise future.”

All the ingredients are in place for the Daegu edition to continue on this front. For a start, there is comprehensive participation of the sector in Korea. The main host country organiser of LET 2023 is the IWA Korea National Committee (KNC), with the Korea Water Partnership providing the administrative office on behalf of IWA KNC. The IWA KNC brings together the following leading organisations: Korean Society of Environmental Engineers; Korean Society on Water Environment; K-water – Korea Water Resources Corporation; Korea Water and Wastewater Works Association; Korea Environment Corporation; and Korean Society of Water and Wastewater. The event is being held with the support of the vibrant host city Daegu, in North Gyeongsang Province and will enjoy the excellent facilities of EXCO. As well as the main three-day technical programme, on Monday 29 May the conference will kick-off with practical workshops designed to empower participants to learn about emerging technologies and solutions in water and wastewater treatment, with a focus on innovative and sustainable practices. There will also be technical tour options on the Friday.

Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department director Samuel Chui, as one of this year’s plenary keynote speakers, sums up what LET offers: “LET is a flagship conference. Many top international researchers and experts will come together to share their knowledge and insight on water management, technology development and new concepts and ideas. It is a really important event for the exchange of ideas and experiences.” •