EICC Case Study Swept Away Edinburgh fought off stiff competition to host the XVth World Water Congress. Jon Rathjen, Team Leader of the Water Industry Team at the Scottish Government, tells us more about this year's event

25–29 May 2015 • World Water Congress

World Water Congress Edinburgh

Can you tell us more about the XVth World Water Congress?

Hosted by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), the World Water Congress brings together academics, politicians and business figures every two years to focus on major global water challenges. This year, the Congress in Edinburgh was themed around water as a tool for progress – using water as an asset to support economic, social and environmental development.

World Water Congress Edinburgh

What is the aim of the Congress?

The aim is to advance academic thinking around global water challenges. The Congress gives academics the opportunity to meet and present their papers and during the week, there were around 300 papers presented as well as 105 individual sessions that discussed a diverse range of topics.

World Water Congress Edinburgh

Why was Edinburgh chosen as this year's host city?

The Scottish Government has put forward a new policy area called ‘Scotland The Hydro Nation', which revolves around using our water as an asset to develop Scotland's economy. The policy gained international press attention and so, the IWRA approached us to ask whether Scotland would be interested in bidding for the 15th Congress. After looking at the scale of the event, we felt Edinburgh was the right host city – it is compact, a popular destination for conferences and the EICC had the capacity we required.

World Water Congress Edinburgh

What were your highlights from the week?

The quality of the speakers was fantastic – the delegates were very excited to hear from key thought-leaders in the industry. It is considered a special honour to give the keynote Ven Te Chow Lecture and this year Dr Rabi Mohtar, TEES Endowed Professor at Texas AM University, gave a very powerful speech. Another great speaker was Dr David Molden, who incidentally gained quite a lot of national press attention as he has been advising Nepal on water management following the earthquake there.

What made the EICC stand out as a venue for the Congress?

The recent refurbishment and the addition of the new wing means the venue is incredibly flexible. We were also hosting a number of subsidiary events under the umbrella of the Congress so it was important that we were able to have exclusive use of different areas of the venue. It is obvious the EICC has hosted a lot of conferences and that experience makes a difference – everything is very slickly run. The staff are incredibly professional – the word ‘yes’ seemed to be used a lot more than ‘no’.

World Water Congress Edinburgh

I understand this is the 15th Congress. How have these events changed over the years?

The focus changes with each Congress as the global water challenges change. Now it is the 15th Congress there is definitely a feeling of momentum – you are taking on the mantle of the next iteration in a very successful series so there is a sense of responsibility in hosting the event.

It sounds like the social programme was a lot of fun. Can you tell us a little more about this?

As well as small gatherings in restaurants and bars across the city, we organised a drinks reception at the Castle with entertainment from traditional musicians and Highland dancers. The delegates had exclusive access to the upper courtyard with stunning views across the city; they were swept away by the experience. It truly is a unique setting that you can't find anywhere else in the world.

World Water Congress Edinburgh

What has the feedback been like from the delegates?

They said it was very well organised. We've not had any negative feedback at all. Everything ran on time and the delegates could move from one session to the next very easily. They felt comfortable and very well looked after in the venue even though the weather outside was typically Scottish with four seasons in one day.

Overall, how did you find your experience at the EICC?

We enjoyed it enormously. We had our own office in the EICC so we were there for the entire week. It's a very impressive venue. I've worked with a lot of venues across the world and I find that the EICC is one of the best.

The World Water Congress XV was organised and run by Speakeasy.