The five day event is the largest of its kind worldwide, bringing in nearly 20,000 water industry professionals. It contributes more than $21 million dollars to the local economy convention officials say. Now they'll be back every other year through 2024.
But why New Orleans?
"You have the facilities. The hotels are close by, but really it's the customer service of this city...in particular the New Orleans Convention and Visitor's Bureau. You earned the business. You folks work really hard at making us feel welcome, meeting our needs and going a step beyond," says WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger. He says very few areas can handle their large displays, and by next year they're going to use the entire length of the mile long convention center.
With the recent announcement than San Diego is now going to start desalinating sea water, it's even clearer that much of this country is facing a water crisis.
Whether it's about conservation or quality, water is "thee" hot topic of the century according to organizers. "I think we're on the cusp of transforming from a wastewater industry to really a resource recovery or resource production industry," says Eger.
That means we'll be drinking water we're now flushing says Eger. Another hot topic will be using water to create energy, since that is the biggest expense for most utilities.
WEFTEC 2012 will also feature U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, a native New Orleanian, who will deliver a special keynote speech today.
The conference will also include educational programs including 148 technical sessions, 24 workshops and six local facility tours. WEFTEC will also foster domestic and international business opportunities with an exhibit floor featuring a new Innovation Showcase, 10,000 square foot Stormwater Pavilion and nearly 1,000 exhibiting companies from around the world.
Also on Monday, Jackson is expected to join Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Francisco Sanchez to officially launch the U.S. Environmental Technologies Export Initiative. This new initiative officials say is designed to foster greater interagency collaboration in U.S. government trade and international environmental activities to support the increased worldwide deployment of environmental solutions.
New Orleanians have a love-hate relationship with water so during the month of October, the Mayor's office and the New Orleans City Council, along with WEF and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, are empowering locals to conserve and protect water by proclaiming October as Water's Worth It Month.
Developed by WEF, this is a national public awareness campaign that aims to raise awareness about the value and importance of water and it's connection to nearly every aspect of our lives organizers say.