Research Triangle Park, N.C. — The 2014 International Society of Automation (ISA) Water/Wastewater and Automatic Controls (WWAC) Symposium drew more than 170 attendees, 30 expert speakers, and 27 exhibitors to Orlando, Fla., in early August to explore and confront the varied challenges associated with automation and instrumentation in the municipal water and wastewater sectors.
The three-day, highly targeted event — focusing entirely on the needs of automation professionals — included an extensive program of technical presentations; an interactive panel discussion; poster presentations; a tour of a local wastewater treatment plant; a vendor exposition; and two sold-out training classes — one on industrial cybersecurity and the other on troubleshooting instrumentation and control systems.
The 2014 ISA WWAC Symposium was organized by the ISA Water/Wastewater Industries Division in collaboration with the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association (FSAWWA), the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Automation and Info Tech Committee and the Instrumentation Testing Association. In addition, 15 corporate sponsors supported the event.
“This year’s symposium delivered an excellent platform to examine in detail the key topics and challenges relating to automation in the water and wastewater industries, and to stay informed on the trends and dynamics shaping the future of these industries,” reports Kevin Patel, the general chair of the event. “The symposium featured some of the world’s most knowledgeable and experienced subject matter experts.”
Among the diverse topics addressed during the technical sessions were:
A strong emphasis was placed on identifying opportunities and challenges faced by clean water agencies and pinpointing forward-looking solutions, some of which are being implemented today.
The keynote address, "A Vision for the Water Resources Utility of the Future," was delivered by Thomas W. Sigmund, P.E., Chair of the NACWA Utility and Resource Management Committee & Executive Director of NEW Water. Other notable speakers at the event included:
Don Lovell, of ISA, who discussed the importance of troubleshooting in daily plant operations.
Michael Sweeney, deputy executive director of the Toho Water Authority and long-time member of the American Water Works Association, who reviewed the current news and trends in the municipal drinking water sector.
Tom DeLaura, vice president of Eramosa International and chair of the Water Environment Federation's Automation and Info Tech Committee, who highlighted the current news and trends in the wastewater sector.
Bryan Singer, principal investigator for Kenexis Security, who outlined the most effective ways to conduct industrial security vulnerability assessments, and separated out what cyberattackers can and can't do.
Given the increasing risks posed by cyberhackers, cybersecurity was a hot topic. In his presentation, Singer helped attendees better understand the real threats posed by cyberattack and showed how owners and operators of critical infrastructure can better defend and protect industrial control systems (ICS). He pinpointed the most common techniques hackers use to exploit vulnerabilities and gain system and network access.
Utilizing modern ICS cybersecurity standards and engineering skills, Singer emphasized, can contain and limit the risk of significant network and system damage as a result of cyberwarfare.
In addition, a forum session on the Role of Automation within the Utility of the Future was held. Moderated by Tom DeLaura, the session examined how the evolving operating challenges of utilities will influence the need for automation. Panel members discussed that water utilities, for instance, are increasingly regarded as producers of a highly valued commodity, and that they will require significant operational improvements in order to be cost efficient.
Forum session panel members included: Tom Sigmund, P.E., Chair, NACWA Utility and Resource Management Committee & Executive Director, NEW Water; Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, Ph.D., Dean, University of South Florida, Patel College of Global Sustainability; Barry Liner, P.E., Director, Water Science & Engineering Center at WEF; Zdenko Vitasovic, Ph.D., Senior Engineer, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; and Mike Sweeney, Ph.D., P.E., Florida Section of the AWWA & Deputy Executive-Director, Toho Water Authority.
Adding to the value of the symposium were the two training courses, the networking and professional development opportunities, and the continuing education credits (CEUs and PDHs). The credits, provided by ISA and the Florida Section of the AWWA, can be used toward continuing education requirements for various state-issued water operator, wastewater operator and engineering licenses.
“It’s great to know that the symposium is getting better and better and larger and larger,” emphasized attendee Charles Aycock of the city of Roseville, Calif.