A Water Smart Society – the key for wastewater management

A Water Smart Society – the key for wastewater management

Water Europe – a membership-based organization that includes academia, technology providers, water users, government members, and civil society – has recently released a guide for best practices in wastewater – related industries: “The Value of Water: Towards a Future-Proof European Water-Smart Society”.

Also known as the Water Vision, the document is a true blueprint that establishes the true value of water in society. The main focus is on managing water sources, avoiding pollution and overconsumption, ensuring efficiency and circularity, and making sure water sources are resilient in face of climate change.

The Urban Waste-Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) is an important global reference in wastewater management. Thanks to this set of regulations, over 95% of European wastewaters are collected, with a similar rate of treatment.

The manifesto of Water Europe agrees on the importance of UWWTD and adds that these directives should be completed by concepts such as circular economy, digital waters, and technology improvements.

A key insight into the water industry – a high return area – shows that sustainability with impact in several key sectors is needed.  All the efforts for climate neutrality can be rendered null if water management is not included in the strategy, since water scarcity can lead to a quick failure. A Water-Smart Society is, in conclusion, the best approach to reaching neutrality goals.

Here are the main insights from WE’s study:

HOLISTIC AND CIRCULAR MANAGEMENT FOR WATER & ENERGY SAVINGS

Nutrients and energy in water streams need better management and exploitation. A smart wastewater treatment plant should

  • Make all necessary efforts to reuse water, as less than 0.5% of European freshwater used in industry is reused presently.
  • Extract energy from water and wastewater flows
  • Extract nutrients and valuable minerals from wastewaters – such as phosphorus and nitrates
  • Identify valuable connections with other industries, in order to achieve a circular economy.

SPECIFIC MEASURES TO ADDRESS CONTAMINANTS OF EMERGING CONCERN (CECs) AND ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

Zero Pollution strategy also involves addressing elements such as pharmaceuticals, microplastics, and hormonal disruptors – a major source of concern and public expenditure for the UN.

Another thing to consider is the management of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotics contamination. Increased concern and a major point of action for wastewater management is support in pandemic strategies.

DIGITALISATION FOR ENERGY & WATER EFFICIENCY

Digitalization should be a key focus for UWWTD, as it can have a major impact on the transparency of practices and water quality. Digitalization can also help with a higher level of compliance, reinforcement of regulations, and maximizing resource usage.

BRING BACK NATURE: BETTER STORM AND FLOOD MANAGEMENT

High water flows following storms and natural disasters can create an urban runoff flow –  a major source of pollution that ultimately affects all water sources. Floods are also a drain on resources, being the main source of damage from natural disasters in Europe.

Implementing nature-based solutions can help to greatly reduce the impact of water flow disasters in urban areas.

A WATER FRIENDLY LEGISLATION BUILT BY AND FOR EUROPEAN CITIZENS

The water sector should be better understood by the general public, by various communication strategies:

  • Offer incentives to develop innovative treatment technologies.
  • Inform the public about new water technologies and best practices that are to be expected from industry players.
  • Focus on access to sanitation into new regulations, in order to ensure
    effectively access to water and sanitation for all by 2030 – one of the 17 major UN goals.

Leave a Reply