Amsterdam event draws crowds

At the recently concluded Aquatech Exhibition in Amsterdam (November 1 to 4, 2011), there were about 850 exhibitors from over 40 countries. The sprawling area of the Rai Amsterdam exhibition centre was filled with companies dealing with almost every aspect of water management. The booths rivaled each other in design and many companies had brought their best-selling or latest or largest equipment such as membrane racks, pumps, valves and measuring instruments to display to the thronging crowds.

The exhibition, being held after a gap of three years was definitely one of best in terms of product display, innovation and participation. The Asian presence could be seen in the number of Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese companies and a couple of Indian companies, all peddling varieties of membranes, water purifiers and other treatment products. Every booth was busy at most times of the day.

The concept of water weeks seems to be catching on. After Stockholm’s World Water Week and Singapore International Water Week, now comes the International Water Week, which was introduced this year in Amsterdam to complement Aquatech with somewhat mixed results. Several parallel sessions on various water-related topics such as flood-protection, climate change, and treatment of water and wastewater were held. While the seminars related to popular Dutch themes such as delta management were well-attended, others ran almost empty, as it happens in events worldwide with too many concurrent sub-events.

A big theme at the exhibition and conference was innovation. While a number of innovative products won prizes at the contest, and were publicised throughout the days of the event, a telling point was made by Paul Reiter of International Water Association at a keynote lecture. Pointing out that the world’s population had just touched seven billion in the last week, he said the slow pace of integration in the management of water would severely hamper the process of getting water and sanitation to all the billions in the world. “Integration is the new innovation,” he declared. Simply integrating the activities of industries, municipalities and farmers would enable water to be used so much more efficiently.

On the same topic, Bill Dee of Arcadis gave an example of a thermal power plant in the US, which needed water to use in its air scrubber in order to comply with stringent air-pollution requirements. Meanwhile, a nearby wastewater treatment plant found itself facing more restrictions to discharge its treated effluents into the environment in order to comply with nitrogen and phosphorous limits. A happy solution was found when both units decide to integrate their operations and the effluent from the treatment plant was transported to the thermal plant to use in its air-scrubbing process.

In the years to come, innovation will increasingly be about how to integrate the use of water across various sections of the economy and less about dazzling products which are wizards at measuring, purifying and pumping. It will be good if future water events and water weeks highlight the importance of innovative integration as much as individual innovative products.

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