Olympic-Sized Challenges—& Opportunities

Sept. 2, 2016

About the author: Elisabeth Lisican | Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Amidst the magic of the Olympic Games and the stunning star athletes they showcased glistened a few unsavory sideshows and spectacles, one of which was the extent of Rio’s water pollution problems and its troubled water bodies.

According to a National Geographic article, much of the pollution comes from raw sewage. It also comes from urban runoff and industrial wastewater—from about 17,000 industries around Guanabara Bay.

Dense population and lack of proper sanitation create a perfect storm of raw sewage to contaminate Guanabara Bay, where Olympians rowed and sailed. And because many houses in the bay’s drainage basin are disconnected from sewage treatment plants, human waste flows straight into the bay—which naturally creates a risk of waterborne illness. 

These major problems are characteristic of developing countries. Worldwide, 2 million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste are discharged into waterways, according to the United Nations.

Flint, Rio—it seems as though 2016 has been the year of bringing major water issues to light. And if we’re looking for any sort of silver lining in all of these dire reports, it’s that identifying problems to national and global audiences is a good first step towards heralding change—however far off that may be. 

That’s why it’s also perfect timing to head to the Water Environment Federation Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) in New Orleans to learn about how we can even begin to make a difference as an industry. With 29 workshops and many more technical sessions—not to mention an exhibit hall with nearly 1,000 booths—it’s time to both go back to school and take care of business.

In addition to global water quality, some other themes that W&WD is keeping in mind as we walk this year’s show floor are “young professionals” and “women in water.” If these topics are of interest to you, please take the time to visit us at booth #1249 and tell us your story, or point us to someone whose story we should know. Your comments may appear in a future issue of W&WD.

And finally, to cement this as a positive note, stay tuned for W&WD’s announcement of our 2016 top municipal and industrial projects during WEFTEC—sure to spark inspiration for improving water infrastructure and conditions worldwide. We’ll see you in NOLA!

About the Author

Elisabeth Lisican

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