By Peter Cartwright, P.E., CWS-VI

The International Water Conference (IWC) is a long-running conference addressing water treatment, primarily in the power generation industry. The October 19-23 venue marked its 64th consecutive presentation.

Always held at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, this year’s conference attracted 457 attendees. As has been the pattern of late, the attendance was down from previous years, resulting from the sluggish economy and pattern of consolidation in our industry. But the show organizers were still fairly happy with the turnout.

Next year’s conference will be held Oct. 17-21. In an effort to attract higher attendance, however, the organizers plan to “take the show on the road” in 2005, to Orlando, Fla. As the power industry requires ultrapure water, most of the sessions addressed reverse osmosis or ion exchange technologies. Still, there were an unusually large number of papers on electrodeionization (EDI) as well as water reuse. The plethora of papers on this latter subject (nine of the 48, according to my count) reflect an encouraging trend seen in many industries—using wastewater sources such as municipal sewage as the source for high purity water applications—following treatment, of course. As technologies to accomplish this have been in place for many years, this reflects an attitudinal change more than anything else.

For the power industry, most water purification is oriented toward boiler feed. The purity requirements increase with the boiler pressure, and a good rule of thumb is that at a pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi) or above, the feed water resistivity must be 18 megohm. The other major water usage issue addressed in this conference was cooling water. The treatment requirements in this application include filtration, scaling, corrosion and microorganism control with chemical treatments.

The conference, sponsored by the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania, was organized with three concurrent sessions over 2-½ days followed by three workshops for the next day-and-a-half. The IWC is unusual in that it’s the only conference I’ve ever attended that uses “discussers” with the technical papers. This means someone has been selected to review the paper in advance, and that person is supposed to provide a five-minute critique of his/her presentation. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency for the “discussers” to use this as an opportunity to present their own paper, and the discussions tend to get a bit lengthy. On the other hand, they do promote a lively exchange.

Of all the conferences I attend devoted to industrial water treatment, this is the only one focused almost exclusively on power generation. Power-Gen is also devoted to that market; however, very few papers at this conference address water treatment. Not surprisingly, this venerable conference was well organized with many hospitality suites as well as a fair number of booths in the exhibition hall.

About the author
Peter S. Cartwright, president of Cartwright Consulting Co., Minneapolis, is a registered professional engineer in several states. He has been in the water treatment industry since 1974 and has published more than 100 papers and articles on related issues. Cart-wright has been chairman of several Water Quality Association committees and task forces and received the organization’s Award of Merit in 2001. A member of the WC&P Technical Review Committee, his expertise focuses on membrane separation, filtration, ozonation and ultraviolet technologies. He can be reached at (952) 854-4911, (952) 854-6964 (fax), email: or website:


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