By the International Desalination Association

Last month in Dubai, the International Desalination Association presented its 2019 World Congress, themed Crossroads to Sustainability, hosted by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). For decades now, this event has been widely recognized as the premier global conference on advanced water treatment solutions, specifically desalination and water reuse. But this year, IDA’s World Congress surpassed past traditions with the ambitious goal of establishing a new standard for the water industry.
The much anticipated congress saw a number of new initiatives and programs, the most notable of which was the Leaders Summit. An exclusive event, the summit was designed to respond to the sector’s growing need to speak across industry barriers in order to effectively enact sustainable water solutions. IDA gathered influential leaders from a number of different sectors, including finance, legal, public utilities, innovation leaders, industrial users and project developers, all in an effort to step outside a traditional understanding of the water sector’s role and open a new, more dynamic conversation with other professionals. “We designed the Leaders Summit so representatives from many sectors will be present. Our panels featured executives from private companies, as well as government officials from countries who rely on desalination and other advanced water treatment solutions,” said Shannon McCarthy, IDA Secretary General.
The summit included keynote speakers from a variety of high-level delegates, including His Excellency Julio César Kosaka, Vice Minister, Construction and Sanitation, Peru; Peter Joo Hee NG, CEO, Singapore PUB and Dr. Gonzalo Delacamara, Global Water Economist, as well as a series of panels tackling questions critical not only to the water sector, but to all other sectors as well. The topics included Survival or Sustainability: The Role of Advanced Water Treatment Solutions, Bankability of Mega Water Projects: How to Increase the Appetite of Lenders and Financial Development Institutions and Trends in the EPC Market: Is Competing on Cost vs. Quality Sustainable?
But the Leaders Summit seemed to be only one crossroad in the 2019 World Congress. The staggering program included a variety of opportunities for intersectional dialogue, including the Affiliate Majlis Forums, which provided a place for IDA’s 16 affiliate associations to showcase market and innovation updates and make new connections. The World Congress program also included a new set of Industry & Sustainability Awards, designed to recognize unparalleled achievement in industry operations and sustainable practices. “The Industry & Sustainability Awards were created to implement a new standard in the water industry,” said McCarthy. “ As a sector, we need to begin rewarding practices which enable a sustainable future. At IDA, we saw these awards as a way to make that happen.”
It seems the water sector responded to IDA’s new standard. The association received over 50 nominations for these 11 awards—a testament to how the water sector is ready and willing to look toward the future.
Even established aspects of the World Congress, such as the Technical Program, pointed toward new crossroads. “Our industry is a changing environment,” said Technical Program Topic Chair Blanca Salgado. “Explosive growth is happening across the industry and we must be ready to address this growth.” The program addressed timely topics such as Desalination, Water Reuse, and Our Wider World, Foundations for Success: Policy, Finance, and Market Challenges, Environment, Innovation and Renewable Driven Desalination, as well as more technical topics such as Seawater Desalination, Industrial Applications for Desalination and Water Reuse, Brackish Water Desalination, Thermal Desalination and From Mining Recovery to Remineralization.
“In the view of the current world water scarcity and the rising demand for water, it is crucial to identify sustainable solutions to meet future long-term water stress needs,” said Topic Chair Chiara Fabbri. And IDA’s Technical Program worked to do exactly that. With over 200 oral presentations, the program encouraged papers that addressed partnerships between the advanced water treatment sector and financial and legal sectors, fostering new connections and new conversations. Papers such as Inclusive Innovations to Sustain Environment and Serve More People (Dr. Adil Bushnak) and The Oman Humanitarian Desalination Challenge (Engr. M. Kevin Price) raised new questions for congress delegates.
In short, the World Congress was a trailblazing event both for the association and the water sector, setting a new set of standards for organizations to follow. The challenge is immense and it seems that IDA has no intention of slowing down. Already the dates for the 2021 World Congress, hosted by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Kenya and the Ministry of Water, Mombasa County, have been announced as November 7-10, 2021. The association has also signed a strategic partnership agreement with Singapore International Water Week and will host an exciting business forum in addition to hosting a special IDA exhibition pavilion in the heart of SIWW’s activities. Exhibition inquiries can be addressed to
The association has also opened a Call for Papers and Sponsorships for their 2020 Water Reuse and Recycling Conference, taking place September 28-30, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Technical topics include Cutting-Edge Technologies, Direct and Indirect Potable Reuse, Non-Potable and Agricultural Reuse, Water Quality Monitoring and Control, Advanced Water Technologies for Joint Desalination and Water Reuse, Industrial Water Reuse and Recycling, Best Practices in Reuse and Health Concerns in Water Reuse. Abstracts can be submitted online (, while sponsorship inquiries can be addressed to
IDA’s efforts are nothing less than an attempt to reshape the water sector, encouraging a more dynamic industry that takes a more comprehensive look at the challenges facing our world today. And, despite the ambition of the goal, the association has met it with success. Just this past quarter, IDA welcomed a plethora of new corporate and individual members, with membership inquiries addressed to What new initiatives the International Desalination Association will launch next are to be revealed, but one thing is for sure: they’ll be a game changer for our sector. To learn more about the International Desalination Association, please visit


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