WAHC Portland Best Ever, says attendees - here's why

The 11th annual World Aquatic Health Conference (WAHC), hosted by non-profit National Swimming Pool Foundation®(NSPF®) was held in Portland, Oregon, October 8-10. Nearly 400 people representing a record number of states (42) and countries (12) traveled to the WAHC. Attendees from the United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom participated in this leading global aquatic research forum. “The WAHC spotlights advances that can generate growth and curtail contraction for our field and industry,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of NSPF. “Helping facilities improve profitability and spotlighting how aquatic activity improves health can foster demand for pools, spas and aquatic facilities. Preventing injury, illness, and drowning prevents contraction,” he explained.

There was a broad diversity of representatives from the aquatic community. Fifty-one percent were new attendees. The WAHC is tailored for people involved in all areas of aquatics, including aquatic facilities, service providers, consultants, parks & recreation, water parks, manufacturers, academia, associations, builders, community organizations, distributors, hotels, government, health/medical, retail, and media.

Global recreation and aquatic experts were inspired by four keynotes and more than 80 seminars on public health code, recreational water illness (RWI) prevention, facility management, advanced chemistry, drowning prevention & fear, health benefits, and new industrial technology. A scientific poster session, lunch roundtables, and table top displays presented by non-profit organizations and conference sponsors filled out the two-day event. Several organizations held board, leadership and committee meetings adjacent to the Conference so their leaders could more easily attend, including Water Safety USA, Portland Area Aquatics Council, and Playcore. Just prior to the WAHC, the National Swimming Pool Foundation hosted an NSPF Instructor School and a Certified Pool/Spa Operator® certification course. USA Swimming held a Build a Pool Conference and Genesis 3 conducted a course on Basic Fluid Engineering, immediately following the WAHC.

NSPF surveys WAHC attendees during and post event. “Many responded that the conference format and content encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones to learn about other areas, outside of their specialty in aquatics,” said Michelle Kavanaugh, Conference Manager for the WAHC. “It’s this kind of broadening that affirms why at least 50% of attendees come back year after year; no matter where it is located. The WAHC inspires and influences attendees’ thinking and decision making for the future,”

Keeping pools open and safer requires a team effort – from local, state and federal public health officials, code writers, manufacturers, researchers and service organizations, to aquatic facility managers. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and non-profit CMAHC (Conference of the Model Aquatic Health Code) hosted a workshop on October 8 that encouraged public health, aquatic and other stakeholders to get involved and help shape what the MAHC will look like in the future. The CMAHC will serve the key role of collecting, assessing and relaying national input needed on the MAHC. More than a third of WAHC attendees attended the CMAHC open workshop as well as the WAHC Public Health Code Track. Both events were streamed live online. 

“It was gratifying to see over 100 people show up in person and over 160 organizations log into the live stream and view the CMAHC meeting. There was good discussion on how we build and operate this fledgling organization to advise the CDC on needed MAHC updates,” commented Michael Beach, Associate Director for Healthy Water, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control at the CDC. “It illustrates the strong backing the MAHC has from both public health and the aquatics industry to keep it up to date with the latest science and best practice,” he concluded.  

The Insiders Aquatic Facility Tour hosted the largest group ever. Attendees visited five unique aquatic facilities: Mt. Hood Community Aquatic Center; Mountain Park Home Owners Association; Southwest Community Center – Indoor Pool; Float On, and Oregon Health & Science University – March Wellness & Fitness Center.  Representatives provided an insider view during the five-hour tour, offering five different perspectives on designing an efficient facility. “It was wonderful that 43 people arrived a day early to attend the Insiders View Aquatic Facility tour,” said Michelle Kavanaugh. “Everyone agreed the tour was worthwhile; we heard from other WAHC attendees who plan to take the tour next year,” she added.

Presentation Highlights

Engaging fearful swimmers to get them in the water.

Two-thirds of Americans are afraid of deep, open bodies of water and 46% are afraid of the deep-end of a pool. Studies show that children of non-swimmers never learn to swim, and their children as well. It is important to break the known cycle of generations avoiding the water - rather than them being able to appreciate it for all its value. This year, the WAHC focused on how to help people overcome their fear of water; to find solutions to the perpetual high rates of drowning in this country, to begin a conversation amongst attendees on how to move forward.

Patty Chang Anker, noted author of SOME NERVE: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, about how ordinary people can face their fears — inspired attendees with her Keynote address. Her message was powerful and personal. Her talk provided the important forum to open up discussion about drowning, fear of water, and encouraging people to swim for fun, fitness and for safety. Attendees were lined out the door for her book signing. Published in 2013 to much acclaim, Oprah.com called SOME NERVE "downright inspiring," Parents magazine said it was a "Must read". After the conference, Patty wrote, saying “Thank you so much for inviting me to speak at WAHC! It was tremendously exciting for me to meet so many professionals ready and willing to reach out to fearful swimmers. During the book signing and for the rest of the day, people approached me with their ideas and their own stories.” NSPF will be following up on those ideas.

Viewing of Taking the Plunge documentary brings people together to spread the message of hope.

Continuing the conversation into that evening, many attended the viewing of the compelling new documentary “Taking the Plunge”. The film, produced by Shawnelle King of Falcon Rattler Media, takes the viewer on a courageous journey to eliminate the fear of being in or around the water. After the showing, attendees participated in a lively Q&A. Shawnelle said, “What an amazing opportunity it was to share my film with the leaders of the aquatic world. Thursday was a step forward towards helping fearful swimmers. Having the chance to share my message of hope about the need to reach out and help the 100-million Americans affected by this fear of being in and around water was invaluable.  I met a lot of wonderful people who seemed to believe in my vision and who have expressed a desire to come together and continue to spread this message of hope by acknowledging this FEAR as a real issue.”

Keynotes on Friday focused on keeping people healthy through aquatics.

Three notable NSPF-funded scientists each delivered a ‘Ted-Style’ keynote talk, spotlighting to what extent water activity helps us maintain our mobility and minds. Eadric Bressel, Ph.D., Paul Chantler, Ph.D., and Hirofumi Tanaka, Ph.D. shed light on how water is the perfect medicine for a prescription to better health. Presentations were high-level, presented in a personable, engaging and sometimes humorous format. Topics included:  Water immersion – your brain on aquatics; Aquatic exercise – reversing cardiovascular age; Swimming – the magic pill for arthritis.

Facility management track attendees powered up with knowledge.

The conference featured an all-new Facility Management track with thirty 5-7 minute “power presentations.” Attendees had an opportunity to hear from a wide range of experts on a broad selection of subject matter that help facility managers find new ways to increase their revenue, and decrease expenses. From technology to programming, experts shared highlights and high-level practical information that can be put to use immediately.

Making facilities more efficient through new technology.

Float tank industry representatives explained how bringing this new product into facilities can add a new revenue stream. Other industry technology presentations included a look at drum filters, UV and THM (trihalomethanes) Stripper and how these components have revolutionized the Scandinavian aquatics industry. Plus, talks that look at enhanced filtration, pool water quality control methodologies, digital testing, robotic and handheld cleaners, and optimizing salt chlorine generation.

 Poster Sessions

Attendees were able to review a varied selection of six poster presentations that displayed new research from around the globe, offering an opportunity to speak one-to-one with the presenters for a better understanding of scientific advances in a more intimate environment.


Sixteen organizations (including several sponsors) presented tabletop displays: American Chemistry Council, American Red Cross, Delta UV, Genesis 3, Hayward Commercial, Hydrofit, IPSSA, Joshua Collingsworth Foundation, Miracle Swimming, NACCHO, NSF, Pentair, Playcore, Pool Safely – CPSC, USA Swimming Facilities, and USA Swimming Foundation.


Thank you to the fourteen leading sponsors: Hayward Commercial (Platinum Sponsor); Pentair and Playcore (Gold Sponsors); Accu-Tab, AquaSalt, Counsilman-Hunsaker, DeltaUV, Dupont, Engineered Treatment Systems (ETS), Hach, Hydro-Fit, NSF International, Aquatics International Magazine (Silver Sponsors).

 And don't forget about next year~hope to see in Scottsdale :)

WAHC 2015 Scottsdale, Arizona

The twelfth annual World Aquatic Health Conference is scheduled for October 7-9, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. Sign up for more information when it is available. NSPF invites companies and organizations to contact them to schedule their meetings in conjunction with the 2015 World Aquatic Health Conference.


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