14 November 2022 / Vienna, Austria
“Groundwater – Making the Invisible Visible”: The 10th Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
14 November 2022

From 8 to 10 November, water professionals from the Balkan's region gathered at the Emerald Hotel in Prishtina, Kosovo, for the first real-life Joint Conference after two years of virtual events. The IAWD was present, and for those that weren't – here is the report.

During the last decade, the Balkans Joint Conference and Exhibition has established itself as a major knowledge sharing and networking event for the water sector in the Western Balkans. Drawing audiences of over 500 participants every year, the Conference offers a platform for lively and productive exchanges between water professionals, policymakers, and business professionals, supporting efforts to further develop the water supply and wastewater sector in the Greater Balkans Region. A large Equipment, Technology and Services Exhibition with participation from a broad array of private sector companies adds to the significance of this event.

World Water Day 2022, with its focus on groundwater, inspired SHUKOS and SHUKALB, the sector associations of Kosovo and Albania and main organizers of the Joint Conference, to follow suit and set the conference theme on this hot topic with its special significance for the Balkans, where a huge share of the drinking water supply is provided by underground sources. “Groundwater – Making the Invisible Visible”, formatted as a three-day, multi-track conference, dealt thoroughly with perspectives of, and approaches to protecting the quality and quantity of underground water resources.

The Emerald Hotel was already buzzing with activity well before the start of the official participant registration and the opening ceremony: Petr Ingeduld of the Hungarian DHI Group held a six-hour workshop on Digital Twin applications in non-revenue water and energy management, giving insights into latest methodologies, approaches and practical experiences.

Meanwhile in another room, the Utility Benchmarking Hub of Kosovo and Albania held its workshop, gathering the Water and Sewerage Companies that participate in the Utility Benchmarking Program under D-LeaP to discuss their progress, data and perspectives to further improve the performance of water and wastewater services.

Yet another parallel event was the invitation-only Joint Meeting with Stakeholders on “Capacity Development in the Water Sector and Advocacy of the Water Associations for Creating an Enabling Environment”, organized jointly by SHUKALB and SHUKOS to facilitate the dialogue and coordination between stakeholders in the water supply and sewerage sector in Albania and Kosovo.

Topping off the afternoon program, final year University students and water professionals under the age of 35 gathered for the Young Water Professionals Forum including the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between YWP Kosovo and the Budapest Water Company, with IAWD's Katerina Schilling joining by video call before travelling to Prishtina to moderate a technical session on Water Utilities Management and to join the panel in a plenary session on Dealing with the Global Crisis.

The evening brought the official welcome, led by SHUKOS President Zenel Zenelaj and SHUKALB President Petrit Tare, followed by an awards ceremony and a cocktail reception marking the official opening of the exhibition.

Wednesday opened with a keynote on “Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water” by Aude Farnault, Economist and Policy Analyst at the OECD Environment Directorate, followed by the first plenary session, moderated by SHUKALB's Elisabeta Poci, and two technical session tracks, covering Water Resources Management, Technical Management of public utility companies, Regulatory Challenges and Non-Revenue Water Magament.

After the lunch break, Baton Begolli of the Inter-Ministerial Water Council in Kosovo moderated the second plenary session on Challenges and Opportunities in the Regionalization of Water and Wastewater Services, followed by two parallel technical sessions on Organizational and Structural Management and Integrated Asset Management.

The Thursday program started with keynotes from Moritz Remé, Director at the KfW Development Bank in Kosovo, on "Building Resilience of Kosovo’s Water Sector – An Integrated Approach", and IWA South Africa's Prof. Hamanth Kasan, who set the theme of the morning's plenary session: “Water and Wastewater Services in Uncertain Times: Dealing with the Global Crisis”, in which IAWD's Katerina Schilling joined the discussion panel.

The subsequent technical sessions dealt with Challenges and Mitigation of the Energy Crisis, Wastewater Management in two parts, and Water Utilities Management.

The afternoon plenary Session, moderated by Prof. Assoc. Dr. Enkelejda Gjinali of the Polytechnic University of Tirana focused on Circular Economy in the Context of Wastewater, followed by part II of the technical session on Water Utilities Management and a parallel technical session on Drinking Water Quality, before SHUKOS Executive Director Abdullah Dërguti and SHUKALB Executive Director Elisabeta Poçi closed the conference.

For information on the Balkans Joint Conference, material on previous conferences and a soon to be published full report on the 2022 Conference, please turn to conference website under the link below.