August 2008, Vol. 20, No.8

WEFTEC.08 to be held in Chicago

Windy City hosts largest annual water quality event of its kind

Jennifer Fulcher,Mary Bufe,Michael Bonsiewich

From Oct. 18 to 22, water quality professionals from around the world will convene at WEFTEC®.08 in Chicago. As the largest annual water and wastewater exhibition in the world, WEFTEC will feature more than 1000 exhibiting companies showcasing the latest developments in water quality.

WEFTEC offers considerable depth and breadth in its technical program. This year there are 115 technical sessions that run the gamut from facility operations to leading-edge research. Other technical topics to be covered include nutrient removal, biosolids and residuals, collection systems, membranes, stormwater management, water reuse, public communications, industrial issues, odor and air emissions, utility management, sustainability, disinfection, microconstituents, watershed management, computer applications, global perspectives, and decentralized systems.

WEFTEC.08 offers 30 full- or half-day workshops. These opportunities for in-depth examination of issues — featuring interactive, hands-on, and detailed discussions — are presented on Oct. 18 and 19 (see below).

WEFTEC.08 also offers tours of local facilities; a workshop on Chicago green infrastructure (see below); and an award-winning Opening General Session speaker, John Anthony Allan, the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate and a professor at King’s College London (see below).

For more information, see

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Green Infrastructure in the Windy City

Meet John Allan, WEFTEC.08 Keynote Speaker

Workshop Wonderland

Green Infrastructure in the Windy City
WEFTEC.08 workshop explores green infrastructure projects in Chicago

Splashes of green space adorn Chicago’s rooftops and roadways, and innovative infrastructure can be seen around every corner, including permeable pavement, renewable energy sources, rain barrels, bioswales, and rain gardens. WEFTEC®.08 offers an opportunity to learn about and see Chicago’s green infrastructure in Workshop 109, “Green Infrastructure: The Windy City and Beyond.”

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley set a goal to make Chicago the most environmentally friendly city in the world and provide an example of how to establish green infrastructure in an urban setting. Since he was first elected in 1989, more than 500,000 trees have been planted, 100 school campus parks have been created, and 112 km (70 mi) of landscaped street medians have been built. By October 2006, more than 250 green roofs totaling more than 92,900 m² (1 million ft²) were under design or under construction in the city, according to the Chicago Department of Environment (DOE). The city has an extensive assortment of green infrastructure projects to learn about and explore during WEFTEC.08.

Wet, Windy City
Chicago’s geographical location, population density, and many other factors have resulted in a long history of flooding. Flooding can be traced back to the first explorations of the city in 1673 and is largely attributed to the fact that the city is located where the Chicago River empties into Lake Michigan, according to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).

U.S. Census Bureau information shows that Chicago’s population in 2000 was 2,869,016, or approximately 5000/km² (12,750/mi²). Population growth in the city has led to an estimated $28.7 million in average annual stormwater damages affecting 200 communities in the Chicago metropolitan area, according to MWRD. Mayor Daley’s response to these problems came with the implementation of many different green infrastructure initiatives and incentives.

Hands-On Learning
“What’s interesting about this workshop is that we are going to talk about [green infrastructure] early in the morning,” said Steve Wise, natural resource program manager for the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago. “Then, the second half of the day, we are going to be out on the ground looking at examples.”

Richard Lanyon, MWRD general superintendent, will be one of five speakers in the morning and will discuss the integrated water management of the region. MWRD has implemented watershed planning in an effort to keep rainwater where it falls out of the sky and stored in rain gardens, green roofs, bioswales, detention reservoirs, and rain barrels, he explained.

“Now, with the city’s infrastructure, we are looking at green technologies to better manage our water,” Lanyon said, noting that he wants to relay the importance of working with other agencies and the community to implement green infrastructure. MWRD provides administrative assistance, produces guidance documents, and plays other educational and organizational roles, as necessary, for green infrastructure projects.

Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), will speak about Milwaukee’s green initiatives. He said he wants to show how green infrastructure can be implemented on a large scale and how it produces more than just stormwater management benefits, including public education and connectedness with constituents.

“I hope [attendees] lose the skepticism that I think might still be out there about green infrastructure,” Shafer said. “I hope they walk away with a different feeling about how they approach green infrastructure in their regions.”

Wise will guide the afternoon tour that stops at the St. Margaret Mary Church and School, the North Side Reclamation Plant, and the Chicago Center for Green Technology. Each stop will help attendees understand the what, how, and why of several different green infrastructure installations.

Wise explained that he also wants to show attendees the green alleys in Chicago that incorporate permeable pavement, the roof of the McCormick Convention Center (location of WEFTEC.08) that captures rainwater and sends it back into a nearby lake, and a new streetscape project by the Chicago Department of Transportation that will incorporate bioswales in the median, permeable pavement along the curbs, pedestrian and transit access, dark-sky lighting, and photocatalytic coating on concrete or stone that is designed to consume air pollutants.

Green Alleys
Public alleys stretch over approximately 3060 km (1900 mi) and account for approximately 1400 ha (3500 ac) of impermeable surfaces in the city, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation (DOT). In an effort to reduce stormwater runoff from these alleys, DOT has started a pilot program to construct “green alleys” that incorporate a permeable pavement, a light-colored surface with a high albedo (reflectivity level), and recycled materials, such as concrete aggregate, slag, and recycled tire rubber. Green alleys also utilize grading and pitch to facilitate drainage, and dark-sky-compliant light fixtures to reduce light pollution and provide uniform illumination, according to DOT.

The Green Alley program has “proven to be very effective and very popular,” Wise said. “Other cities around the country are looking at this as one way you can take a heavily built urban area and improve its performance for stormwater and also make it a nicer place to be.”

Green Roofs
Installing green roofs in Chicago is encouraged as a way to capture rainwater before it enters sewers and to reduce the heat-island effect in the city. Green roofs also act as insulation to buildings, keeping them cooler in summer and warmer in winter. On average, the green roof system will be able to store about 25 mm (1 in.) of rain.

According to DOE, the first municipal green roof in the country was the rooftop garden on Chicago’s city hall, an 11-story office building. The 1885-m² (20,300-ft²) garden has 20,000 plants of more than 150 varieties, including 100 shrubs, 40 vines, and two trees. The garden retains 75% of a 25-mm (1-in.) rainfall before there is stormwater runoff into sewers and has saved a projected $3600 per year in energy costs for the building, according to DOE.

The city hall rooftop has been shown to be much cooler than the adjacent Cook County building rooftop. For example, on Aug. 9, 2001, at 1:45 p.m., the temperature of the paved portion of the city hall roof ranged from 52ºC to 54ºC (126ºF to 130ºF), and temperatures on the garden portion of the roof ranged between 33ºC and 48ºC (91ºF to 119ºF), while the temperature of the black tar on the Cook County roof was 76ºC (169ºF), according to DOE.

Chicago Center for Green Technology
Many green infrastructure elements can be seen at the Chicago Center for Green Technology, a stop on the workshop tour, including a green roof, four 45,420-L (12,000-gal) cisterns that collect rainwater for watering the landscape, bioswales that relay water from parking lots into a wetland area, and renewable energy to help power the building.

The center’s water conservation system retains more than half the rainwater that falls onsite, meaning that on a normal rainy day with 76 mm (3 in.) of rainfall, 662,375 L (175,000 gal) of water are retained onsite and 321,725 L (85,000 gal) are released into sewers.

Photovoltaic panels provide 45% of the building’s total annual energy consumption. A roof-mounted system produces 28.8 kW of electricity, while a building-integrated system of window awnings on the south side produces 10.8 kW. A solar berm and solar panels on the ground level of the parking structure produce 32.4 kW. In addition, two “smart” lighting systems are used in the building. One adjusts lighting depending on the amount of natural light in a room, and the other features motion-sensitive lighting. With this building, Chicago has 41 registered Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (commonly known as LEED) properties, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (Washington, D.C.).

St. Margaret Mary Church and School
Built in 1921, St. Margaret Mary Church and School had to address frequently flooding streets and occasional flooding of the activity center’s first floor during heavy rainfall. In 2007, the Chicago Center for Neighborhood Technology stepped in to help the church and school by constructing a 5.5-m × 15.2-m (18-ft × 50-ft) bioswale designed to absorb approximately 492,050 L (130,000 gal) of stormwater runoff a year and two 3.7-m × 2.4-m (12-ft × 8-ft) rain gardens designed to absorb another 302,800 L (80,000 gal) of water a year. The church and school community helped with installation of the bioswale and rain gardens. Two permeable pavement areas also were installed in the parking lot as educational tools.

Northside Water Reclamation Plant
The Northside Water Reclamation Plant, an 80-year-old structure, was built with the idea of collecting rainwater and pumping it into the sewer, Lanyon said. With the new concept of catching rainwater where it falls, four 9-m² (100-ft²) rain gardens were constructed, and a 1.7-ha (4.2-ac) native prairie landscape was installed onsite to take the stormwater runoff and let it infiltrate into the ground. Two new 28-m² (300-ft²) gardens are under development, and the existing gardens will be doubled in size this fall, according to Sergio Serafino, an MWRD official.

Milwaukee Initiatives
Chicago neighbor Milwaukee also will be represented at the workshop. MMSD’s Shafer will discuss the city’s Greenseams project, rain barrel program, and rain garden program.

Through Greenseams, MMSD since 2003 has purchased more than 648 ha (1600 ac) of property along waterways and put the land into a conservation easement, Shafer said. In addition, with the help of community groups and businesses, MMSD sells rain barrels and native plants for rain gardens for a discount price to community residents. More than 7000 rain barrels, which are available through the MMSD Web site, have been sold since 2003, and 1800 have been sold since Jan. 1 of this year. Through the rain garden program, MMSD teaches the community how to install rain gardens.

“It’s been really, really [successful],” Shafer said. “It’s just amazing how people really want to know how they can help. They just don’t know how to do it.” Most of the city’s program is not highly technical and is something any homeowner can do by themselves, he added.

MMSD is also in the process of “trying to bring nature back into the design of our waterways,” Shafer said. “We kind of just jumped into green infrastructure because a lot of it just makes common sense. If you store 50 gallons [189 L] in a rain barrel, that 50 gallons is not going either into the river or into your sewer system.”

Attending the Workshop
Workshop attendees can expect to see a variety of ways to institute green infrastructure. Many projects include combined benefits of energy savings, stormwater reductions, and environmental, social, and educational advantages. Themes that can be expected from the workshop include the benefits and challenges associated with implementing green infrastructure.

“Instead of relying on centralized infrastructure, you’re trying to build up capacity through a lot of localized practices,” Wise said. “There’s this spectrum of environmental and social benefits that accrue when you use green infrastructure approaches.” But green infrastructure is also compatible and complementary to conventional drainage systems, he added. Less water entering conventional systems because of green infrastructure extends the life and lightens the burden on existing systems.

“Green infrastructure is a different approach,” Wise explained. “We’re trying to let [rainwater] soak into the ground and restore natural functions and natural hydrology wherever possible.”

For a more thorough look into green infrastructure and an opportunity to get up close and personal with these projects in Chicago, attendees are urged to sign up for the workshop early, because space is limited. See for more information.

Jennifer Fulcher, WE&T

Meet John Anthony Allan, WEFTEC.08 Keynote Speaker

John Anthony Allan, the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, is on tap to deliver the keynote address at the Oct. 19 opening general session of WEFTEC®.08. Allan, a professor at King’s College London, pioneered the concept of “virtual water,” a way of measuring how much water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products.

Allan recently shared some thoughts with WE&T.

WE&T: By explaining how and why some nations — such as the United States — export billions of gallons of virtual water each year while others import like amounts, your research is said to be redefining the discourse on water policy and management and opening the door to more productive water use. What led you to think about water in this way?

Allan: I had worked in the Middle East on water issues for more than 20 years. Major figures in the region were saying that there would be a water war. But there had been no armed conflict over water since Israel and Syria battled in the early 1960s.

By the mid-1980s, an Israeli economist was warning that Israel’s policy of exporting agricultural commodities was not sensible in terms of water resource security. I then realized that Israel and the rest of the region were dependent on food imports for their water and food security.

WE&T: How was the idea of virtual water received initially?

Allan: In scientific circles, it was quickly adopted. But among water managers and politicians in water-scarce regions such as the Middle East, the idea was immediately rejected. Food imports were fine as long as no one drew attention to them. Peoples who had been water-secure for five millennia could not be confronted with the idea that they were no longer secure.

Some senior officials in the Middle East did promote the idea. And by 2006, Egypt’s water establishment spoke about it publicly at a major water conference in Mexico. The idea is now well established in the scientific community. It will take a further decade for it to be widely used in policy circles.

WE&T: According to your research, it takes nearly 140 L of water to grow, harvest, package and ship the beans for a single cup of coffee. One hamburger is said to require 2400 L of water to get to your kitchen table. If this is really so, why aren’t food costs astronomical?

Allan: The water used to raise the animals that provide the hamburger is often soil water in low-rainfall rangeland regions or on the wet slopes of hilly land in temperate regions. In these circumstances, the opportunity value of the water is zero.

Where livestock is raised in feed lots on fodder [that requires] irrigation, the value of the water used is higher. But the water value is rarely reflected in the production costs. The costs of using and overusing such water resources are borne by the environment, not by the consumer.

WE&T: What does this have to do with international water policy?

Allan: About 20% of the agricultural commodities raised on the world’s farms are loaded on a truck and/or ship and cross an international border. This virtual water trade explains the absence of armed conflict over water.

Keeping this process invisible is essential for those in power in water-scarce regions, such as the Middle East. Leaders and peoples can exist in a state of denial about their water predicament for decades. This is bad for the environment and for water policy reform generally, as the urgency of the water predicament is obscured.

WE&T: Can you cite any examples of water policy that have been impacted by an understanding of virtual water?

Allan: The idea was immediately adopted by all elements of water management and most of the water-using community in Israel. The major international agencies and bilaterals involved in international assistance also very quickly adopted the concept.

The associated idea of the water footprint developed by Arjen Hoekstra [a professor of multidisciplinary water management at the University of Twente in The Netherlands] and his team has been picked up by the NGO community [nongovernmental organizations associated with the United Nations]. They have very effectively impacted major corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Shell. They now take virtual water and the water footprints of the embedded water in their activities into account.

WE&T: A recent Goldman Sachs report on escalating water demand reported that, globally, water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and that by 2025, an estimated one-third of the global population will not have access to adequate drinking water. What do you think?

Allan: Generally, drinking water and water for domestic use is not — and will not be — a problem. An individual needs about 100 m³ of water per year for domestic use and about 1000 m³ for food. People in the United States use more. A nonvegetarian in the United States uses 5 m3 per day. A vegetarian uses only half that.

Singapore, on the other hand, has about 5% of the water it needs. It imports all its food water and even half of its fresh water for drinking and domestic use from Malaysia. It is beginning to desalinate water to avoid dependence on these freshwater imports.

Water poverty, however, does not determine poverty. Poverty determines water poverty. Goldman Sachs is circulating some useful pessimism but is not right. Pessimists are often wrong but useful. Water optimists are right but dangerous.

WE&T: Is the escalating demand for water a runaway train that can be stopped?

Allan: The London basin accommodates 17.5 million people. We have only got water for about 1.5 million. Water scarcity is possible but can be avoided with modest changes in behavior and perhaps with a little desalination if climate change worsens the present position. Water for food could [also] be a problem if we divert land and water from food production to energy production.

WE&T: How might the world be different in 2025, water-wise? Will a gallon [3.8 L] of water cost as much as a gallon [3.8 L] of gas?

Allan: A liter [0.26 gal] of bottled water already costs as much as a liter [0.36 gal] of gas. This irrational consumer behavior is strange in that midpriced bottled water costs 10,000 times that of tap water. Water supplied to farmers is a tiny fraction of the cost of bottled water.
The price of water will be higher by 2025 mainly to achieve high or even improved standards and to protect the environmental services of water. Inflation will have doubled all prices by then. Water will be in line with such trends.

WE&T: The 2008 Stockholm Water Prize includes a $175,000 cash award. Inquiring minds want to know: Do have any special plans for those winnings?

Allan: First, I shall accelerate my personal transition to being a vegetarian. Second, I shall invest at least 10% of the prize in companies installing solar thermal power-generation capacity.
I shall also put about $8000 toward renovating my trusty but not very environmentally friendly Citroen 2CV. I would spend $12,000 tomorrow on an electric car, but I live in a Victorian house in London, and I cannot recharge the battery. Finally, I shall also help some students do good work.

WE&T: Any parting thoughts?

Allan: The big problem is not water. It is that we use too much dirty energy.


















Mary Bufe, WE&T











Workshop Wonderland
WEFTEC®.08 features 30 workshops, including the popular microbiology workshop

Water professionals descending on Chicago for WEFTEC®.08 will have a wealth of options for continuing education, such as workshops, technical sessions, and plant tours. In particular, WEFTEC.08 will feature 30 workshops covering a variety of topics, including membranes, microbiology, and work-force planning.

The workshops will provide attendees with the chance to earn both continuing education units and professional development hours (see sidebar, right). Participants also will have the chance to participate in an interactive environment that promotes hands-on learning.

Workshops and technical sessions, the two major learning opportunities for attendees, differ in a variety of ways. The goal of the workshops is to provide “an interactive learning environment and also in depth on a particular topic,” said Matthew Ries, managing director of technical and educational services at the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.).

“Interaction gives people the opportunity to ask questions about their specific issues or instances,” Ries said.

Workshops are full-day sessions that delve in depth into the subject matter, unlike the briefer presentations in the technical sessions. The workshops also are more interactive than technical sessions.

“The opportunity to work in smaller groups, to get the hands-on time experience … that’s the real difference between a workshop and a technical session,” Ries said.

Moreover, participants in workshops have the opportunity to interact with the instructors and work with other water professionals and equipment, such as microscopes.

“Participants get instant response to their questions about observations and techniques they are using,” said Ron Schuyler, vice president and senior project manager at Rothberg, Tamburini, and Windsor (Denver) and chair of the Wastewater Treatment Microbiology workshop.

Perennial Favorites
Some of the WEFTEC.08 workshops that organizers expect to be most popular include the following.

Wastewater Treatment Microbiology. The Wastewater Treatment Microbiology workshop, which is part of the Laboratory Practices track, will be held both Oct. 18 and Oct. 19. Each session of the workshop is capped at 30 participants. This is the 22nd year in a row that WEF has hosted two microbiology workshops, and due to the workshop’s popularity, it is expected to sell out yet again.

“It is popular because it is a truly ‘hands-on’ workshop with samples, spills, stains [including fingers], microscopes, and things that ‘go wrong,’” Schuyler said.

The microbiology workshop uses both lectures and hands-on activities to enhance participants’ understanding of the role of microorganisms and microbiological principles in wastewater treatment. The morning session will delve into types of microorganisms, conditions that affect their growth, and the equipment and techniques used to determine types of microorganism.

The afternoon session enables participants to use filament identification software, bacterial staining techniques, and microscopes to identify and count protozoa and metazoa. Attendees also will identify filaments and analyze bacterial flocs to estimate sludge settling and clarification characteristics.

“The goal is for the participant to gain a basic understanding of the importance of microorganisms in wastewater treatment processes and to begin to relate observation of certain microorganisms with certain process conditions,” Schuyler said.

The workshop will use samples of known microorganisms, but participants are encouraged to provide their own mixed liquor samples.

Membrane Technology. WEFTEC.08 features three workshops on membrane applications.


  • W102 Membrane Bioreactors (MBR):  How Far Are We Now and Where Are We Going? This workshop will focus on providing attendees with the most current membrane technology information, including the design of MBR systems, operation issues, energy savings, life-cycle costs, and the future of membrane technology.
  • W203 Upgrading Plants Using IFAS, MBBR, and Membrane Technologies: Process Selection and Operation. This workshop, part of the Municipal Wastewater Treatment Processes track, will focus on the selection and operation of MBR, moving-bed biofilm reactor (MBBR), and integrated fixed-film activated sludge (IFAS) technology.
  • W207 Membrane Bioreactors: Innovative Operations. As MBR use becomes more common, understanding the basic principles of the technology is more important. This workshop will provide attendees with information on what should be considered, what to look for, and what to avoid in the operation of an MBR facility.

Activated Sludge and BNR Process Control. Two workshops, both part of the Facility Operations track, are devoted to this topic. The Oct. 18 workshop features industry professionals and will focus on presenting the basics of biological nutrient removal (BNR) and solving design problems that have plagued earlier systems. The workshop also will cover aeration system and clarifier performance issues, process control parameters, sidestream considerations, establishing a healthy biomass, and suggestions for identifying microorganisms.

The Oct. 19 workshop will be held at the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago’s Egan Wastewater Treatment Plant. The workshop will demonstrate process control tests, measurement techniques, and troubleshooting methods. The workshop also includes testing that will focus on activated sludge systems and include BNR techniques.

Michael Bonsiewich, WE&T


Get Credit for WEFTEC

WEFTEC®.08 provides attendees with the opportunity to earn continuing education units (CEUs), professional development hours (PDHs), and contact hours. Participants must scan their badges before and after each session to receive educational credits. At WEFTEC.08, attendees can earn up to 1.2 CEUs and 19.75 PDHs.

One CEU is equivalent to 10 clock hours of training or formal instruction. These are related to structured, relevant professional training above and beyond that of initial certification or employment in a particular field. CEUs are offered at workshops.

A PDH is 1 clock hour that is spent engaged in an activity that contributes to the advancement or enhancement of professional skills or scientific knowledge of a professional engineer. PDHs are earned at technical sessions, as well as at the opening general session.

Attendees also can earn contact hours for the time spent on tours and on the exhibit floor. Badge scanners will be located throughout the exhibit hall.

Be sure to check with your state to ensure that WEFTEC credits are accepted.