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Water Cities of the Future

Learning from the past to help engineer the future

A thought provoking, engaging discussion on the pivotal role of water in cities and the need for unconventional thinking to create resilient, future-proof water systems.

May 8, 2024

8:00am MT





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By 2050, seven out of 10 people are expected to live in cities. As cities continue to grow, so does their exposure to climate and disaster risk. Rapid urbanization is inevitable and will bring additional infrastructure challenges, particularly on water. Building and rebuilding cities to be resilient and to harness instead of wrestling with water will require accelerated policy, collaboration and investment.

What can we learn from the past mistakes when engineering the future? How can we turn water from being seen as a risk to an opportunity, from potential scarcity to abundance?

The first in a three-part discussion series takes an optimistic look at the critical role of water in cities. Industry leaders will unite to share their visions of the relationship between water and urban development. Potential solutions including decentralized water recycling, unconventional water sources, water reuse, digitalization and demand reduction strategies will be discussed. Hear stories of cities that are taking the lead, including Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California.

The lively discussion will be a thought-provoking, engaging, fun and lively conversation. Not to be missed.



  • Water utilities

  • Investors

  • Engineering consultancies

  • Urban planners and city officials

  • Technology entrepreneurs


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

8:00 am - 9:00am

All times listed in US Denver Mountain time


8:00 am 

Welcome Remarks

Tom Freyberg, Founder & Director, Atlantean Media

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• Welcome and event overview

• Why are we holding this session


8:05 am 

Setting the Stage

Will Sarni, Founder & CEO, Water Foundry

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• What are Water Cities of the Future


8:10 am

Panel Discussion 

Facilitator: Tom Freyberg, Founder & Director, Atlantean Media
Will Sarni, Founder & CEO, Water Foundry
Richard Vestner,Vice President, Urban Digital Twin Solutions, Bentley Systems
Newsha Ajami, Commissioner, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission / Chief Strategic Development Officer for Research, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Mark Fletcher, Director and Global Water Business Leader, Arup

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A panel discussion, with live audience question-and-answers:

Part one: a brief history of water in cities
Historically, communities have been formed around water resources, eventually evolving and spanning into cities – but where have gone things wrong?

Part two: visions for the future
If you were City Mayor, and had the chance to design a city from the ground up with sustainable water at the heart, how would it function? What would it have that our current cities don’t have?

Part three: who’s getting it right?
Case studies of cities around the world who are mastering urban development together with integrated, digitised water systems and nature-based solutions.



Halftime Q&A

Facilitator: Tom Freyberg, Founder & Director, Atlantean Media

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Live audience question-and-answers


8:55 am

Q&A Closing Remarks

Tom Freyberg, Founder & Director, Atlantean Media
Will Sarni, Founder & CEO, Water Foundry

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Session wrap-up and audience take-aways.

Conference Format

Hosted on an exciting and interactive virtual event platform, this event series features a virtual auditorium, plus audience interaction via Q&A and Polls.



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Tom Freyberg

Founder & Director
Atlantean Media


Tom Freyberg believes that everyone has a story to tell. An award-winning environmental journalist, he has had articles and comments published in The Times, The Guardian, CNN, the Grocer magazine and a Swedish institute publication, WaterFront. Spending nearly a decade traveling the globe and reporting on projects from Latin America to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, this opened his eyes to the water challenges and solutions available around the world. A graduate of the University of Exeter, Tom founded Atlantean Media in 2018 as a boutique digital content and media company. The company was born out of a need to bring engineering-based content to life and now represents and advises public and private-sector clients across the water and climate-tech space. The mission? To connect people to water through creative content. As well as being the content director for Aquatech Global events, Tom is the co-creator and co-host of The Stream with Will and Tom podcast together with Will Sarni, the host of online talk show QTalks by Qatium, as well as co-founder of KnowH2Ow - a marketing and communication training hub for water professionals.

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Will Sarni

Founder & CEO
Water Foundry

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Will is an internationally recognized thought leader on water strategy and innovation. He has authored numerous books and articles and presented on: the value of water, innovations in digital water technology, the circular economy, and the energy-water-food nexus. He has been a water strategy advisor to private and public-sector enterprises and NGOs for his entire career.

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Richard J. Vestner 

Vice President, Urban Digital Twin Solutions
Bentley Systems 

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Richard J. Vestner is Vice President in the Industry Solutions Product Advancement Unit of Bentley Systems. He is responsible for Bentley’s urban digital twin solutions covering cities and campuses. Based in Munich, Germany, Richard holds a Dipl.-Ing. and a Dr.-Ing. degree in civil engineering. After his military career, Richard started his professional career as a consultant with his own company. Then he joined a business consultancy for public and corporate real estate management. During the following eight years he led national and international companies within a German infrastructure engineering group as managing director. Before joining Bentley in 2020, Richard served as Group Executive Board Member responsible for the EMEA business and Chief Digital Officer for a Danish tech company.

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Newsha K. Ajami, PhD

Commissioner, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Chief Strategic Development Officer for Research,
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

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Newsha K. Ajami is a Commissioner of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. She serves concurrently as the Chief Strategic Development Officer for Research in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL). A leading expert in sustainable water resource management, smart cities, and the water-energy-food nexus, she uses data science principles to study the human and policy dimensions of urban water and hydrologic systems. In her role at LBL she is focused on developing and leading interdisciplinary and impact-focused research initiatives at the nexus of water, energy, and climate. Dr. Ajami was a two-term gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. She is a member of National Academies Board on Water Science and Technology and serves as a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. Dr. Ajami also serves on number of state-level and national advisory boards. Before joining LBL she served as the founding director of the Stanford Urban Water Policy program and as a senior research scholar at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Earlier in her career, she also served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee where she worked on various water and energy related legislation. She has published many highly cited peer-reviewed articles, coauthored two books, and contributed opinion pieces to the New York Times, San Jose Mercury and the Sacramento Bee. Dr. Ajami received her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the UC, Irvine, an M.S. in Hydrology and Water Resources from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Amir Kabir University of Technology in Tehran.

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Mark Fletcher

Director and Global Water Business Leader

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Dr. Mark Fletcher is Director and Global Water Business Leader with Arup. He is responsible for all water and flood risk related business activity across Arup and has advised at a regional, national and trans-national level. Mark was appointed by the RAEng as Visiting Professor in Engineering Design for Sustainable Development until 2008. In 2014 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bradford University for his work promoting sustainable water management. He is on the Leadership Council of UK Water Partnership. He was also Project Director for the BCIA Award Winning Bradford City Park. He has been responsible for Amp Frameworks with UK water companies from Amp2-Amp6 as well as national frameworks with the Environment Agency. Mark is a Board Director of the Water Industry Forum and is on the Policy Group for the Alliance of Global Water Adaptation (AGWA). AGWA includes the US State Department, the Government of the Netherlands, the World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, UNFCCC and Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) amongst its members. He won the Engineering Council Natural Environment Award and the Leadership Award for Outstanding Contribution to Water Efficiency from the World Water Leadership Congress. Mark has presented to senior executives across the Australian water sector on the issue of public and private governance around water. He is also actively engaged in the shaping and messaging of adaptation implementation around the CoP22 agenda.


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Bentley Systems (Nasdaq: BSY) is the infrastructure engineering software company. We provide innovative software to advance the world’s infrastructure – sustaining both the global economy and environment. Our industry-leading software solutions are used by professionals, and organizations of every size, for the design, construction, and operations of water and wastewater utilities, roads and bridges, rail and transit, buildings and campuses, mining, and industrial facilities. Our offerings, powered by the iTwin Platform for infrastructure digital twins, include MicroStation and Bentley Open applications for modeling and simulation (OpenFlows for water infrastructure), Seequent’s software for geoprofessionals, and Bentley Infrastructure Cloud encompassing ProjectWise for project delivery, SYNCHRO for construction management, and AssetWise for asset operations. Bentley Systems’ 5,200 colleagues generate annual revenues of more than $1.2 billion in 194 countries. For more information, visit

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Water Foundry is a trusted advisor to select global clients in the public and private sectors and technology providers in solving “wicked water” problems. The firm provides advisory services in strategy, technology innovation and investing. The team has over two decades of experience working with iconic global brands, investors, and water technology companies along with development banks, foundations and water technology hubs, accelerators and prize competitions. We have a point of view that the private sector has a unique opportunity to create catalytic communities of diverse stakeholders to accelerate progress in addressing “wicked water problems.” We also believe there are investable water tech companies focused on digital solutions such as remote sensing and AI, off-grid and decentralized water and water treatment and smart water solutions in the built environment. We are committed to accelerating solutions to water challenges at the intersection of agriculture, energy, and climate to contribute to economic development, business growth, ecosystem health and social well-being.

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Atlantean is a global network of like-minded, creative individuals with a single purpose: to deliver premium, deep and detailed content focused on innovation in water. Forget dreary, mass-produced press releases destined for the trash. Instead think targeted business content with personality.  Engaging. Entertaining. Provoking. Results driven. That’s Atlantean.  Led by award-winning environmental journalist Tom Freyberg, the global media company has over a decade of experience, spanning the world and bringing engineering-based content to life across the water, energy, renewables, recycling and waste management fields. From feature-length content and analysis, to video case studies and interviews, conference organisation and public speaking, not to mention social media, the company’s proven track record can help to put businesses on the map, get noticed and grow.

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