The ecoSTP congress on water technologies turns Girona into the WaterHub of southern Europe

In June 2023, the ecoSTP scientific congress celebrated its sixth edition in Girona, after visiting Italy in 2021. The congress aims to discuss the latest cutting-edge eco-technologies for a sustainable transition in the treatment, reuse and recovery of waste water resources on an urban and industrial scale, paying particular attention to the efficient transfer of knowledge to the practice. The event brings together professionals from around the world with a view to building a less vulnerable future in terms of water management. 



Why Girona? 

MP.- Because it is very well located and connected to international airports such as El Prat. In addition, in the case of water technologies, there are very important research groups on these subjects, and the region has water problems similar to those found in other areas of Spain, Europe and the world. 


How does planning for such an event begin? 

MP.- Three years before the congress was to be held, a proposal was sent to the organizers. The committee that selects the venue for the future congresses found the proposal interesting, both on a technical and scientific level, and in terms of the possibilities of accommodation and activities running parallel to the congress, as well as its connections with the rest of the territory or for the technical visits that could be made.  


What was the impact of choosing Girona for the congress? 

MP.- In the previous editions there were between 200 and 300 attendees. But more than 500 participants came to Girona. In addition, until then, the attendees of the congress were mostly of European origin, but on this occasion we managed to expand it to include professionals from up to 50 countries in Europe, as well as the United States, Australia or even China. It is true that it was the first congress after the pandemic and that people were eager to meet, but we are also convinced that the choice of location had a lot to do with it, both for the more technical part and for the activities and visits. In fact, although in Girona we were already leaders in the field of water technology before hosting the congress, once it took place it helped us to position ourselves as the WaterHub of southern Europe. And it is no wonder, since we are pioneers in the reuse and saving of water.  



What role has institutional support played in the success of the congress? 

IR.- The fact of receiving support from entities such as the Costa Brava Girona Water Consortium or the Palau de Congressos de Girona, among other collaborators and sponsors, helped us to sell the project as something interesting also from the point of view of the business fabric and society in general. Moreover, we established a very interesting relationship and understanding with the venue, the Palau de Congressos. Given the overwhelming number of registrations, the faculty space where we planned to hold the congress was too small for us and the Palau made things easy for us and accompanied us at all times.  


Does a congress with a sustainable view also work on sustainability? 

IR.- Of course! That’s why we involved all the young people at the university who are doing their thesis or have recently finished it. They set up a committee and gave us ideas about the sustainability plan for the congress, making sure it was free of plastics, for example. 


A congress for society 


What role has the non-scientific part played in this edition? 

IR.- Nowadays, when we go around the world, everyone still remembers the Girona congress. Obviously, we are scientists and researchers and the scientific programme and the quality of the speakers are very important. But in the end, what people remember about it is the overall experience. That is why, in addition to the technical visits to the Empuriabrava treatment plant or the marshes of the Aiguamolls de l’Empordà, we also wanted to involve local citizens during the congress, for example, by organizing activities so that secondary school teachers and technicians from the water sector would attend in order to learn about new developments, or hosting guided tours aimed at people interested in the renaturalization of Girona, as part of the GiroNat project to achieve a greener and healthier Girona. 


You also spread the word among young people… 

IR.- For several years now, the UdG has been organizing the PreBat Campus to give fourth-year ESO students an overview of the university’s work areas. It also organizes the Youth Research Campus to advise first-year high school students on the development of their research work. The ecoSTP2023 congress participated in these two programmes to spread the word about the research that is being done at the UdG and the ICRA in the treatment of drinking and waste water. More than twenty local high schools took part in one campus or the other. Both these activities for young people and the guided tours or the seminar for secondary school teachers have been a very useful way of bringing the issue of water closer to society.  


Congress in figures 

520 attendees 

50 countries of origin 

120 oral presentations 

220 posters 

3 technical visits 

3 social activities 

Approx. €200,000 in execution costs (paid through registrations and sponsorship) 

14 sponsors (3 categories: Platinum, Gold and Silver) 

6 collaborators