Water management, contamination discussed at annual conference

Mar 27, 2024

Nearly 1,000 engineers, planners, and water experts converged at the Hawaii Convention Center for the Annual Pacific Water Conference in February. The theme was “Pulama i ka wai:  Treasuring Water.” 

“When water thrives, we thrive,” said Ulupono Initiative Fresh Water Director Jeremy Kimura, who was also part of the committee that organized the convention. “We are at a very important moment where we need to operationalize the management of water as a system. As climate change creates more floods and droughts, we need to explore solutions that intervene in all aspects of the water cycle — recycling our waste water, recharging aquifers with stormwater, increasing the efficiency of water delivery…”

The two-day conference included presentations on a wide range of topics, exhibitors, and opportunities to network. Workshops featured tracks for stormwater, water and wastewater operators and professionals, and a workshop just for young professionals. Topics discussed  included impacts of climate change, our water systems, protecting wastewater infrastructure, and more. 

The sentiment among those who attended was upbeat with an eagerness to address the water infrastructure challenges that threaten water security in Hawaii. Though the conference historically focused on water and wastewater systems issues, this year there were many talks on stormwater management challenges and the increasing concern with PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance) contamination.

There was also a photo competition, which attendees could vote for their favorite pic. The themes for the photo contest were “Treatment,” as all forms of water undergo treatment from drinking to waste and storm water, and “People of the Industry,” as every person in every aspect of our water community is responsible for providing clean water to ourselves and the environment.

“We had a lot of creative entries this year, which captured the unique perspectives of our water industry professionals,” said Kimura, who was also chair of the photo contest. Heather Iwasaki from the Hawaii Department of Health submitted this year’s winning entry of volunteers working at a lo‘i kalo in Makaha (pictured above). She took home a cash prize of $150.

Next year’s Pacific Water Conference is expected to be once again be held at the Hawaii Convention Center in February of 2025.