Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director at International Water Association (IWA), tells us that 2019 is the year zero to implement the new IWA strategy, drawing exceptional professionals from 130 countries, all working to address the world’s most urgent water challenges when and where they arise, from ridge to reef and from catchment to tap.
With increasing global change pressures cities of the future will experience difficulties in efficiently managing scarcer and less reliable water resources. In order to meet these challenges, there is a need for a fundamental change in the way we manage urban water based on a foundation of research, technology and innovation.
The new normal for all sectors, including the water sector is a low-carbon economy and water needs to play an active role in climate mitigation. The circular economy is key to decoupling economic group from water consumption, moving us away from the conventional ‘take-make-consume and dispose’ model of growth.
Against such mounting global pressures, the dawn of the digital water economy will prove transformational in positioning the water sector and its customers for resilience and efficient economic development, finding sustainable pathways for people and systems to persist, adapt, and transform in the face of change.
While challenging, global change also offers opportunities to implement a new paradigm for urban water management. This is particularly the case in emerging economies, where systems are yet to be built. Development plans will allow direct implementation of radically different system configurations: where surface water, groundwater and stormwater are combined as potential sources; where innovative solutions are applied that allow source separation of wastes and implementation of reclamation schemes (wastewater recycling, nutrient and energy recovery schemes); and where mixed land-use development promotes cascading water uses. The next 10 years will be a golden era for emerging economies (particularly for wastewater and sanitation), where the potential to leap-frog is great.
IWA is inspiring the international water sector to adopt a more smarter approach to water management; Smart by design –adaptive ‘off-grid’, distributed systems that provide diversity, and modularity, characteristics critical for resiliency; Smart Use; combining concepts of water fit for purpose (different grades for different uses), and resource recovery and reuse (of water, energy, and nutrients from wastewater); and Smart Control; IoT supporting data-driven models that can help integrate and optimise smart pumps, valves, sensors and actuators, each device can “talk” to each other, or for that matter to a customer’s smartphone and send real-time information to be access and shared via the cloud.
Navigating the digital bumpy road