Game-changing innovations

The business as usual approaches and traditional technological choice for urban water management will not be able to sufficiently address the many challenges identified in urban center. There is a need for intervention of innovative approaches and technologies in the urban center that ensures resources and costs optimization. Innovative technologies, such as membrane filtration systems, advanced oxidation, hybrid systems of natural and advanced treatment, microbial fuel cells, electrochemical and nano-technology have led to new ways of managing urban water systems through efficient reuse of water and nutrients and the recovery of energy. Important sub-areas within this focal area include: the concept of water machine, consideration of alternative water sources, reinvestigating natural systems as important components of the urban water system and use of smart networks.
Some of the innovative approaches, such as semi-centralized approaches are suited to the concept of water beneficiation (water machine) which aims to extract maximum benefit out of one resource. In this approach a raw material (wastewater of different qualities) flows into the water machine, and generates many products – nutrients, energy, and water – as resources. This has a potential for green economy with small businesses harvesting different benefits from waste stream. Based on the principle of “all water is good water“ approaches of matching water quality and water use to improve water efficiency are promoted. By employing innovative technologies, reclaimed water can be reused multiple times, through cascading water use approaches for different purposes that require different water quality. Natural systems in an urban context can be used for treatment, resource recovery and buffering of the natural environment. As the fundamental understanding in natural treatment systems (NTSs) is improving, these technologies are being increasingly used to improve water quality for drinking purposes and storm water as well as wastewater treatment for groundwater recharge or safe disposal.
By employing ICT technology and adaptive design approaches smart networks enable urban water systems to be designed, controlled and maintained in a way that allows optimization of water quantity, water quality and the water energy footprint.
The aim of this focal area is to explore the available innovative approaches and game changing technologies that are best suited for resources and cost optimization in urban area.
Specific Objectives
  • Take stock of the various existing approaches to urban water management starting from conventional approaches to more distributed approaches, qualifying their performance according to city size and region. Urban water management plans should include long-term funding solutions to build and maintain water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Elaborate on the concept of water-machine within the urban environment typifying the ways in which it could be implemented, the conditions under which this potential can be maximized, and the likely consequences in cities of the developed and developing world, by updating and qualifying the current and potential non-conventional sources or efficiency enhancing means for providing urban water.
  • Promote a fuller understanding of the role of urban groundwater – as a source of water in the conventional sense, but also the risks of uncontrolled extraction of contaminated groundwater under the city itself and of the dynamic character often missed and entrain other risks such as rising water table because of leakage, potential contamination of drinking water when the water table rises above the sewage and/or water supply network.
  • Develop a systematic inventory of existing natural systems treatments qualifying their performance and potential in the urban environment, possible direction in the intensifying their application and investigating new approaches, especially those linking to the application of ecohydrology concepts.
  • Analyze the state-of-the-art in the design of smart networks applicable to urban water management likely condition in which they will prosper and their potential benefits, especially in cities of developing countries.