Swim, sing, smile

Tom Mollenkopf, President, IWA Tom Mollenkopf © IWA

Our Copenhagen World Water Congress & Exhibition is almost with us. This long-anticipated event promises to be exactly the vibrant and prestigious occasion we have hoped for. For me, there are three key outcomes expected: to share knowledge; positively influence the global water agenda; and have fun.

The Congress encapsulates much of what IWA is about and what our organisation contributes. People from across the sector will spend time together, sharing experiences and insights. They will leave enriched and carry forward new knowledge. A rich programme will feed that outcome.

The technical programme is at the heart of this, covering core themes such as wastewater, drinking water, cities, communities, and water resources. Spanning these are trending topics such as digital water, utility management, the circular economy, and climate change adaptation. Business forums are an integral part of this programme.

This will all contribute to a diffuse outcome from the Congress. Every participant will take forward something with them from the event.

Other key elements will deliver more focused outcomes. With the Congress hosting forums on industrial water use, on groundwater, for utility leaders, for regulators, and for emerging water leaders, there are extremely valuable connections made and lessons shared.

This year the Congress will also include a High-Level Summit. Organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of Denmark and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, its invited audience will include government ministers and mayors.

The Summit will inform participants involved in policy and political decisions – key actors whom we in the water sector must actively engage with if we are to implement change. It will also, with its focus on financing, governance, and partnerships, cover important dimensions of our sector that are sometimes less visible.

This brings me to what will come after Copenhagen – the messages and knowledge carried forward that then feed in elsewhere. Nourished by the experience of the Congress, it is the contribution participants will make in the world beyond.

Here, the Summit has a sharp eye on next steps. It has been framed to cover climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. In each of these arenas, there are windows ahead for shaping policy and action. On the water-focused SDG6, there is the UN Water Conference early next year, a mid-point review of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028. On climate change, there is the on-going COP process, with COP27 coming up next year.

The Summit has an explicit ambition of projecting priorities and opportunities towards both of these processes. This complements our wider contributions – especially of building change from the ground up by connecting science, policy, and practice to progress viable options in those trending areas such as digital water, the circular economy, and climate change adaptation.

And what of my third objective for this Congress – fun? For those needing a rationale for having fun, there is ample anecdotal evidence that learning is more effective in a fun environment. The study of endorphins tells us that learning leads to happiness and happiness leads to learning.

In my spare time, I enjoy open water swimming. My fellow ‘Icebergers’ (yes, the water is cold in the south-east of Australia in winter) have a motto – Swim, Sing, Smile. During the Congress, in addition to the joy of connecting with fellow water professionals, I plan to swim in the magnificent harbour. Feel free to join me and ‘Swim, Sing, Smile’. If not, feel free to Sing. Or at the very least, Smile.

Tom Mollenkopf, President, IWA