Climate change is posing a tremendous pressure to our limited water resources and we need to take advantage of all resources available to ensure water security for all. In this context, reclaimed water is gaining popularity as it is a constant source of water independent of climate variability, but it still faces many barriers. Reclaimed water is coming from treated wastewater and there is still a perception barrier in addition to costs concerns or the need of appropriate governance structures to ensure quality monitoring of the effluents and adequate risk assessment. The objective of SUWANU EUROPE project is to overcome these barriers and with this purpose we organized the "International Conference “Pathways to extend sustainable water reuse practices in Europe" which was held on 18th and 19th of May.
The International Conference was a live event presented by the general coordinator of the project Rafael Casielles, Senior Project Manager at Bioazul; Rui Almeida, Partner & Executive Director of CONSULAI; and Ángela Magno, Project & Marketing Manager at Bioazul.
The conference brought qualified experts who presented main challenges and potential solutions to cope with water scarcity. The keynote speakers that participated were Marie Raffin, Director of Water Reuse Europe, who talked about water reuse policies in Europe; Gonzalo Delacámara, Head of the Water Economics Department at IMDEA Water, who presented the socio-economics aspects of water reuse; Panagiotis Balabanis, Deputy Head of Unit at European Commission, who introduced the water reuse opportunities that offers the Horizon Europe programme and WATER4ALL partnership; and last but not least, Marta Carvalho, Coordinator of the Innovation area, Engineering and Operations Department of Águas de Portugal, who offered and overview about innovations on water reuse in Portugal.
Other experts that also joined the conference were Popi Karaolia, Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Cyprus, and Diego Berger, International Special Project Coordinator at MEKOROT, who presented the lessons learned from the successful water reuse in Cyprus and Israel and how the acceptance and use of reclaimed water has evolved over the years.
Water Europe Platform was present during the conference thanks to the presentation by Andrea Rubini, Director of Operations, who talked about the promotion of water-related innovation in Europe. Antonia Lorenzo, CEO of Bioazul, introduced the Water & Agrifood Working Group of the Water Europe which works on improving the exploitation of water sources by involving the water sector, the food industry and the agricultural sector.
One of the main topics that were presented during the conference were the main results and outcomes of SUWANU EUROPE introduced by Rafael Casielles. One of these outcomes are the Regional Actions Plans on the use of reclaimed water developed for the target regions of the project: Alentejo (Portugal), Andalusia (Spain), Antwerp and Limburg (Belgium), Braunschweig (Germany), Occitanie (France), Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Po River Basin (Italy) and Thessaloniki (Greece). The Info-Packages and Fact-Sheets with practical knowledge on water reuse are other of the results that are available in each language of the regions. Last but not least, the E-learning platform based on different online courses adapted to the needs of each relevant stakeholder. Furthermore a “Cross fertilization” session was divided in four parallels sessions to discuss the strategies developed for the 8 target regions of the project and present the Regional Action Plans.
The challenges in water reuse were also discussed by a round table over the new EU Regulation 2020/741 on water reuse in agriculture. The panellists were Adriano Battilani, General Secretary of Irrigants d'Europe and Senior Researcher at Canale Emiliano Romagnolo; Diego Berger, International Special Project Coordinator at MEKOROT; Despo Fatta-Kassinos, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and NireasIWRC at the University of Cyprus; and Rafael Mujeriego, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Engineering, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and President of ASERSA.
Finally, during the conference there was a session dedicated to present the 11 innovations on water reuse selected from the call for abstracts. The conference website also allowed attendees to see all the abstracts and posters submitted.
The SUWANU EUROPE international conference has served to know more in-depth the current problem of water scarcity and discover the tools that this project offers. It has also been an opportunity to establish synergies between different stakeholders from different parts of the world and sectors and walk together towards a more sustainable future.