The International Water Conference (IWC) is next week, Nov. 6-10, in San Antonio. This is my favorite conference of the year, and one of my favorite venues, the River Walk in San Antonio, a pedestrian-friendly collection of shops, boutiques, museums and restaurants just outside the door of the conference hotel, the Marriott Rivercenter. This year’s conference will include three days of technical sessions and three days of workshops. Several of us from Burns & McDonnell will be presenting papers, chairing sessions or providing discussions.

What sets the IWC apart from all the other conferences that I attend during the year is the technical content of the papers and the focus on water issues. Every paper at the IWC is peer-reviewed and held to a professional standard that includes strict limits on commercialism. The conference maintains a focus on water that spans industries but is of particular interest to power professionals because our industry is so dependent upon water and steam. All of these factors combine to create unmatched technical content in the sessions and in the workshops.

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Each 25-minute paper at the IWC is followed by a 10-minute prepared discussion. A discusser reviews the paper and presents a brief review of the paper with questions for the author, and then the author has five minutes to respond to the review, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the audience. The format generates some lively discussion, and it means that attendees are not subjected to a series of marketing presentations. The prepared discussion format is unique to the IWC. The format is strictly timed as well, so all sessions run on the same schedule, allowing conference participants to attend papers in concurrent sessions. There are many excellent papers to be presented this year, including two on Wednesday morning: One, by my colleague Patricia Scroggin, that addresses the unintended consequences of CCR and ELG compliance on non-ELG streams; and another, by our associate Karen Burchardt, that offers a case study on measuring flows to close water balances. Both of these are based on our recent experience in the CCR and ELG arena.

Commercialism Policy

One way the IWC maintains its high technical standard is the Commercialism Policy, (actually the Anti-Commercialism Policy). There are strict limits on the use of logos, trademarks and company names, as at many conferences, but this conference also holds authors to a technical standard. Both the session chair and the session’s discusser hold each author to the commercialism policy and to the technical standards.

Focus on Water

This year there are 21 sessions covering a range of topics, from “Advanced Cooling System Corrosion and Scale Control Technologies” to “Zero Liquid Discharge – Different Applications, Different Challenges, One Result.” There are sessions on ion exchange, steam quality, industrial wastewater and all aspects of wastewater management. The new Steam Electric Power Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Coal Combustion Residuals regulations will be front and center, and our keynote speaker will be Bill Kennedy, manager of strategic engineering – water programs for Duke Energy. The complete program has all the details.

Technical Sessions

The technical sessions are the heart of the conference. This year I will be chairing the session, “Membranes for Wastewater and ZLD: Advances in Membrane Technology for Challenging Applications.” We will be hearing from authors who are actively involved in forward osmosis, electrodialysis reversal, and vibratory shear enhanced processes to deliver zero liquid discharge results for flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewaters. These technologies are promising developments for the industry, and add technologies to the tool belt for FGD wastewater compliance.


In addition to the technical sessions, there will be more than a dozen workshops — each is a four-hour session with a single instructor, focused on a single aspect of water science. Patricia Scroggin is this year’s workshop chair, and she also serves on the IWC Executive Committee. Workshop sessions traditionally start Wednesday afternoon and run all day Thursday, but this year some workshops will be presented Sunday afternoon for those who plan to arrive early. All of the workshops and technical sessions count as professional development hours toward continuing education requirements. Water Chemistry 101 will be taught by my colleague Dennis McBride (who also serves on the Executive Committee), and Bryan Hansen of our Denver office will be teaching a workshop on Wet FGD Chemistry.

We will look forward to seeing you there.

Diane Martini has more than 30 years of experience in water and wastewater design and operations. She’s focused on developing strategies for coal-fired power plants faced with the new Steam Electric Power Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs), the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rules and other new regulations.