The intrinsic link between agriculture and water quantity is the central challenge for water smart societies’
By Jochen Froebrich, Leader of WssTP Cluster ‘Water-Smart Rural’
Why is it important to have a cluster dedicated to the theme “Water for smart rural?
Rural areas are at the heart of the cultural heritage in Europe and with its landscapes and environmental conditions, they potentially offer a high quality of life. Smaller cities could be attractive places to work and live, if they could provide a first-class infrastructure, inspiring socio-economic conditions and actual perspectives for jobs and growth. Instead, Europe is facing a continuous abandonment of rural areas and urban sprawl.
It is essential to have happy, healthy European Citizens, especially in rural areas, for the future of the European Union. The initiation of new jobs and sustainable growth in rural areas, hence, requires a systemic innovation with rethinking new business models in a circular and bio-based economy, an ongoing innovation effort and a true recognition of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and human sustainability. As agriculture is the largest water consumer of river and ground water, the intrinsic link between agriculture, water quantity is the central challenge for water smart societies. Within the Cluster “Water Smart Rural Areas”, WssTP recognizes the importance of water security, systemic innovation in water consumption and the recovery of resources in a circular economy.
How is the Cluster ‘Water Smart Rural’ going to drive the way to the implementation of the WssTP Water Vision 2030?
The Cluster Water Smart Rural strives for water security, innovation in water use, and happy, healthy European citizens. Innovation towards water security must be a permanent process that has to involve European Citizens in a multi actor effort from the beginning. To reach this aim, it requires a fundamental change in research and development. Joint collective learning amongst all payers in the field of innovation must be a central part in the entire transformation process.
To facilitate the ongoing learning, the Cluster Water Smart Rural adopts the concepts of living labs that allows the exchange of best practices, emerging needs, and broadening the vision building across Europe.
The Cluster Water Smart Rural will focus over the next years on three critical areas of innovation in the field of circular economy and inclusive growth :
1) Increase of Waste Water Reuse in the AgriFood Sector 2) Advancing Nutrient Recovery from organic waste 3) Contributing to water security at the scale of river basins
Activities within the Living Lab will provide room for contributions from multiple working group and exchanges with other clusters. To gain first-hand experience and to offer WssTP members a place to unpack the concept of Living Labs, we will first consolidate the Living Lab on Waste Water Reuse – Learn to offer (L2O), a case study driven co-learning platform that will deploy insights how to advance new Agri-Food business opportunities in the field of waste water reuse. The L2O Living Lab embraces the concept of “multiple waters for multiple uses” and aims at generating new labelled water-footprint emblematic products via real business cases at several selected transnational regional levels.
What are the key actions the Cluster has identified to bring research and innovations from the SIRA to the market?
Advancing waste water reuse, nutrient recovery and water security in river basins is less a technological challenge than a complex interaction of creating new markets, alternatives in water consumptions, consumer habits, regulations, and creating a common vision. The Cluster will utilize the Living Labs as a science policy business interface to foster the innovation and market up-take of research and business development. Key actions will include: Foster the description of Demo Sites and activities at the local living lab nodes ; Map innovative business opportunities ; Launch the series of WssTP Think Tank events to advance the exchange of lessons learned amongst the local living lab nodes.
The L2O Living lab will host the WssTP Think Tank events – Co-innovation in Agribusiness and Waste Water reuse – in Brussels from early 2019 onwards. Additional regional events will be hosted around the local Living Lab nodes.