Looking forward to Reno for the leading edge of water

LET 2022 co-chair Jonathan Clement

With the 31 January early bird registration deadline for the IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies approaching fast, The Source hears from Jonathan Clement, Co-chair of the Programme Committee, about why he is looking forward to the event in Reno.

What are some of the technology areas being covered in LET that really excite you?

JC: There are three things that really jump out at me in terms of the content of this programme – and we are quite careful in the Technical Programme Committee to find topics which are really relevant and, at the same time, where there is real change.

One that stands out is climate adaption by water utilities. This has been going on for two or three years, but now we hear, especially in the last six months, how important climate change is for utilities.

So, what’s really interesting, and surprising, is that there are utilities in the world, such as Scottish Water, who are basically adapting how they develop and implement and design their water systems to be resilient towards climate change – actually using science and technology to determine, “How do we prepare our facilities for the future?”. It’s quite amazing that it’s happening at that level.

Another one that strikes me is water recycling, which is related, because one of the reasons that we are headed down the path of water recycling is because of climate change and water scarcity.

What we are seeing is that we have the conventional approach to water recycling that we have been using for 30 years now and we have a lot of breakthroughs in the way that we can recycle, and even go to direct potable use, by using new technologies. There is a lot of recent research about how we can do this differently – in a way that’s better in terms of ensuring public health, but at the same time reducing energy significantly. There are massive opportunities here that are ignored, and we really want to bring that out during LET.

The other thing, which is also related, is desalination. We are turning to the sea as it is sort of an unlimited supply of water. It is relatively difficult, and not energy-prudent, to desalinate that water, but sometimes we’re not left with an option.

One of the big missing links in desalination is not taking the salt out, which we do with technologies such as reverse osmosis, but it’s the up-front treatment that you need to get that seawater into the condition needed for those technologies to work. It’s sort of the forgotten child of this technology, and it has been left out for decades. There are serious problems around the world with desalination because we haven’t addressed the pre-treatment. Sure, we can do desalination, but it’s the pre-treatment that has been missing, and we are also going to bring that out at LET.

What is the added value of bringing such topics together at LET?

JC: I think the added value of bringing these alongside each other is that there’s a lot of overlap in terms of the science. For example, if we look at water recycling, a lot of those technologies, and the way they can be implemented, would be very helpful in climate adaptation. So, very specifically, using energy-prudent technologies that use less energy and that produce less waste.

So, we have some very specific issues that have to be addressed and overcome in order to really get us to where we need to go to.

Why is the LET series of conferences so important to you?

JC: I have worked with IWA as a founder of the LET series since 2001. I felt that what was missing was a worldwide conference bringing together top people in the industry who can really speak about the leading edge of technology.

So, one of the things that is critical to LET is bringing together the people who are really global experts. It is very rarely done in this world – we tend to get scattered around a lot of conferences.

We are trying to bring a very global view with the people that really have the top understanding in the world of their subject areas, so participants can really be at the forefront of what’s happening – at the leading edge.

So, it’s not things done 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. This is research and implementation that is very recent, and it is combining these together that makes it very exciting.

What is the balance at LET between research and application?

JC: In terms of innovation, this is something where there is a very fine line.

There are topics which are extremely interesting from a research perspective, where there is a lot of cutting-edge research going on, but there is very little or no implementation value.

What is important for me is what I call relevance – relevance in the fact that something is leading-edge, it’s really very new, and it can be impactful and actually have full-scale, implementable application within a two or three-year period.

So, there is this fine balance between what can realistically be implemented and what is fresh and new in the water industry.

Why are you looking forward to a physical event in Reno?

JC: Bringing people together at the time that this conference occurs, in late March, I think it couldn’t be better. People are eager to go to meetings and meet face-to-face. That is something that is so essential in the water industry. And looking at the big water conferences that are out there next year, this is one of the first ones to lead the way.

But being in late March, it feels like there is some good space to get comfortable and think about our ideas.

And it’s going to be in Reno. What I like about a location like Reno it that it’s not a massive city. This is a place where you’ll be able to sit in some tranquillity and really enjoy each other’s company and be able to talk about these issues.


More information

The 17th IWA Leading Edge Conference on Water and Wastewater Technologies

March 27 – April 2, 2022, Reno, Nevada, USA

Early bird registration closes 31 January 2022

Visit https://iwa-let.org