BOSTON — Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on Monday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani opened the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE14) with a keynote address stressing the importance of tackling North America’s looming water infrastructure crisis, according to a press release.

Giuliani urged water utility leaders and public officials to be courageous in communicating the need to reinvest in water infrastructure, acknowledging that “sometimes it’s a message they don’t want to hear, because it’s a message that says you’re going to have to spend money.”

Noting that 1.7 trillion gallons of water is lost through broken or leaking pipes each year, Giuliani stressed that traffic tie-ups from main breaks in large cities are public safety hazards because they impede emergency response times. “Not only are they economic issues, but they are life and death issues,” Giuliani said.

In his Opening General Session address, AWWA President Jim Chaffee announced an AWWA plan to open an office in India. He also said association will respond to member knowledge and training needs in the areas of water reuse, stormwater and wastewater. He noted that the conference theme, “Uniting the World of Water,” speaks to “two important trends: A shrinking world and the merging of the waters.”

AWWA Chief Executive Officer David LaFrance welcomed attendees in a Boston Red Sox jersey and reminded attendees to approach their daily work with optimism and hope.