07 June 2023 / Vienna, Austria
How Encouraging: 2023 Danube Water Conference was the Youngest Danube Water Conference Ever!
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
12 June 2023

The water sector in the Danube region is facing numerous challenges, and not the least is recruiting. During this decade, large parts of the current workforce will reach retirement age, and replacing them will be a challenge in itself. All the more encouraging was the large presence and active role of members of the Young Water Professionals (YWP) network at this year’s Danube Water Conference.

Water utilities are mostly pumps and pipes, but when it comes to performance, it is people who make the difference. Asked during a panel to rank the current challenges for the water sector in the Danube region by importance, Vesna Muslic, President of AQUASAN Network in Bosnia Herzegovina, reminded the audience of this plain and often overlooked fact: “Yes, the sector does need investments, it does need funds, but only people with the necessary capacities make the most out of the available resources, and make infrastructural investments sustainable in the long run. Without these capacities, investments are a waste of money.”

This is one more headache for a sector that is already battling stresses related to climate crisis and high energy prices, and the headache is growing. Ylberine Baliu, Secretary of the Young Water Professionals Chapter in Kosovo, mentioned during a panel that lately motivation to seek a career in the water sector seems to be diminishing among young people: “We see a trend here, maybe it’s not the same in every region, but it is definitely present in the Balkans.”

Promoting and supporting careers in the water sector is the objective of the Young Water Professionals Program, established in 2001 to provide students and young engineering talents up to the age of 35 with chances to meet up and get to know the water, wastewater and waste industry. Founded by the International Water Association and actively supported by the IAWD in the Danube region, Young Water Professionals is now a global network with active chapters in many countries.

During the 2023 Danube Water Conference, the Young Water Professionals showed up in force, and not only in the audience: YWP representatives co-chaired sessions, took rapporteur roles at round tables, took the stage in the final wrap-up and supported the conference logistics, helping with the registration process – and really enjoyed being there: “I am looking forward to share my conference experience with my colleagues at home”, commented one of them: “It is so inspiring to hear success stories from all over the world. I especially liked the story about 30 years water sector reform in Portugal. It reminded us that good things take time. We need to make the right decisions and stay on course to bring the water sector forward.”

And Hungarian Young Water Professional Eszther Nagy commented: “What the organizers did here with the YWP was great. I felt appreciated, involved and taken care of. It really gave us a perspective. I invite everybody - if you have the smallest opportunity to do a similar thing, please do so. There is a need to appreciate and engage YWP.” It is noteworthy and very encouraging that IAWD celebrated its 30th birthday during the youngest Danube Water Conference ever. We are looking forward to welcome even more Young Water Professionals during future water conferences.  

VoD - 2023 Danube Water Conference

The 2023 Danube Water Conference “Navigating Changing Waters: New ways to overcome emerging challenges of the water sector in the Danube region” will convene on 31 May to 2 June, 2023 in Austria's capital city Vienna, back...