The California drought is a problem Silicon Valley isn’t helping to solve, announced one headline of The Guardian last Friday 27th March. The alarming explanation of the problem, according to water industry leaders, is “that there’s no value in saving water unless society starts placing a value on water. Water is a commodity in many places, often free or priced at a bare-bones cost, so it’s difficult to build businesses around something that isn’t valued”.
Nevertheless, drawing from the experience of past decades, it is evident that an integrated sustainable development agenda requires water and energy to be placed at the centre of the debate.
Fortunately, not all the foresights seem to be so dark as the vision of Silicon Valley .
The same Friday 27th March, on the other side of the ocean, it took place the kick-off meeting of ENERWATER, acronym for the project entitled “Standard method and online tool for assessing and improving the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment plants”. This is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) within the Horizon 2020 programme; the particular call on Energy Efficiency – Market Uptake was focus on removing market barriers, in particular the lack of expertise and information on energy management, and energy-intensive industries were prioritized. In this sense, Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs) are one of the most expensive public industries in terms of energy requirements. EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) 91/271/CEE made obligatory waste water treatment for cities and towns and, although most of the WFD objectives in relation to water protection have been achieved, most of these aging plants show unsustainable energy consumption and must be optimized and renovated accordingly. However, in Europe there is no legislation, norms or standards to be followed, and as consequence, a gigantic opportunity for reducing the public electric expense remains unregulated.
The aim of ENERWATER -a three-year activity that involves 9 partners (universities and companies) from 4 European countries- is to provide measuring tools to quantify the energy consumption of WWTPs and to elaborate the standards to compare and ultimately optimize the operation of WWTPs. To ensure a fast transfer of results to the relevant actors, ENERWATER will put in contact research groups, SMEs, utilities, city councils, policy makers and industry beyond the project consortium. Besides, ENERWATER will impulse dialogue towards the creation of a specific European legislation following the example of recently approved EU directives, to achieve EU energy reduction objectives for 2020, ensuring effluent water quality, environmental protection and compliance with the WFD. These actions should bring European Water Industry a competitive advantage in new products development and a faster access to markets by facilitating evidence of energy reduction, thereby fostering adoption on new technologies.
We want to specially congratulate our good friend Almudena Hospido from the Group of Environmental Engineering and Bioprocesses, who will be coordinating this promising activity and we hope to contribute to the dissemination of the progress as well as to connect this initiative with other starting proposals nowadays arising in countries such as Ecuador.