From 22 to 26 June, Water Europe organised its annual conference Water Innovation Europe. This year the conference was turned into an online Innovative Water Week event. The theme was A Water-Smart Society for A Post-COVID19 Green Deal. It is Europe’s ambition to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The European Commission has agreed on an ambitious package of measures to transform the economy and society. The COVID-19 crisis was a wake-up call that confirmed the need to create a Water Smart Society. The conference focused on different aspects of this Water-Smart Society. Every morning the day was started with a panel discussion with experts and industry representatives on the different themes. The sessions were wrapped up by a member of the European Junior Water Programme. Each session ended with a small award ceremony for one of the Water Europe Innovation Awards.
The key messages of the conference were:
- Post-COVID-19 the 3Rs will be: Resist, Recover Reinvent
- 20% increase in investments are required in the water sector to meet with the water supply and sanitation demands in Europe
- There is a need for a better understanding of customers as COVID-19 impacted severely on the revenues of water utilities too
- The industry sector is embracing water efficiency and reconsidering water priorities. Local outreach is becoming critically important to the sector
- By 2050, the demand for food will increase by 60%. The Water-food-energy nexus is becoming the water-food-energy-ecosystem-health nexus. It is important to reduce food wasting as it is also water wasting. Consumers have to be made aware of the amount of water in their food products
- Nature-based solutions must be part of the EU’s recovery agenda. They can bridge between a water-smart society and the natural world. The priority is to avoid further degradation of ecosystems
- The importance of water quality is underestimated, and its degradation is affecting society. New technologies and circular processes are required as well as assessment tools
- The time to tackle water pollution is now: technologies and regulations are favourable; the European Parliament has approved a reuse regulation enabling the move to a circular economy.
The afternoon sessions were filled with Working Group meetings on different topics that Water Europe is working on. Jan Hofman co-chaired two working groups: Urban Water Pollution (with Lian Lundy of Luleå University (SE) and Middlesex University (UK)) and Water Security (with Blanca Antizar of Isle Utilities). Juliana Marcal (WISE CDT) gave a presentation on Water Security Assessment methods. This included some results of the 2020 MEng research projects of Josh van der Meulen and Charlotte Gray (3rd year UG Chemical Engineering students). Juliana is contributing to a White Paper on Water Security by the working group. The White Paper will be used to influence policy development in Europe.
Water Europe was initiated in 2004 by the European Commission. It was a European Technology Platform for water. It is now a member-based (currently 214 from 27 countries) multi-stakeholder platform the whole water value chain. The Water Innovation and Research Centre is a member of College B (Research and Technology Developers).
30 June 2020