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Digital Water Transition Roundtable Forum

Aqua≈360: Digital Water Transition Roundtable Forum

The Centre for Water Systems (CWS) at the University of Exeter collaborated with aqua3S, Fiware4Water, ICT4Water, and Watershare in organising the Digital Water Transition Roundtable Forum alongside the 'AQUA≈360' international conference that was hosted by CWS from 31 August – 2 September 2021.

'AQUA≈360 – Water for All; Emerging Issues and Innovations' was a virtual three-day long gathering of internationally leading scientists, engineers and practitioners. It was designed to enable cross fertilisation of new ideas for the delivery of sustainable, resilient, energy efficient and smart water management to address adaptation to climate change, rapid urbanisation and water pollution, and secure safe and sufficient water and sanitation for all. AQUA≈360 provided an exciting opportunity to discuss and showcase cutting-edge water management research and technical, institutional, modelling, planning and community driven social and policy innovations.

The combination of climate change, population growth, urbanisation, emerging demand, ageing infrastructure, declining resources, and pollution has increased the challenges in water and environment management. To tackle these issues, digitalisation offers a promising opportunity to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of water management. The Digital Water Transition Roundtable Forum aimed to bring together world-leading experts in water research and services, ICT technologies, data sciences, policies, regulations and business to share insights of the state-of-the-art digital water practice.

Prof Albert Chen at CWS organised the Forum and was facilitated by Dr Kate Baker. The event focused on challenges and opportunities related to technologies, policies and social engagement to identify the needs in both technical solutions and strategic planning, aiming to showcase a roadmap for enhancing the management in the water sector in digital transition. The goal is to achieve better management of resources, improved performance of services, promote health and well-being of communities, environmental sustainability, and resilience of society to disasters.

The roundtable started with a keynote talk from Dr Philippe Quevauviller, a European Commission Policy Officer (DG Home) on the topic of ‘Science-policy interactions and standardisation in the water sector’. This was followed by a panel discussion to discuss the standardisation, data and innovation of the digital water transition with Dr Franck Le Gall at Easy Global Market (EGM), Aitor Corchero at Eurecat Technology Centre (EURECAT), Dr Valerie Naido Executive at Water Research Commission (WRC) in South Africa, and Dr Anastasios Karakostas at Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH). Some key points from the discussion included:

  • We must be aware of how water utilities across Europe vary significantly, in terms of their resources, customers, etc. Therefore, we need to create feasible goals to ensure that all utilities are included.
  • There was an emphasis on the issue that the digitalisation process is bigger than just the water sector, and that all sectors will benefit from digitisation if there is strong communication. For example, population data and weather data can have a major role in improving decision making within the water sector.

After a short break we had the F4W Challenge Winner showcase presentation with Dr Lautaro Bborrovinsky (AySA) which was followed by the second panel discussion which focused on Cybersecurity, policies & social engagement. The panel included Dr Theodora Tsikrika (CERTH), Dr Richard Elelman (EURECAT), Dr Natacha Amorsi (Office International de l'Eau; OIEau), and Gonzalo Meschengieser (AySA). Some key points from the discussion included:

  • In cybersecurity you are as strong as your weakest link – and therefore the legacy systems and size of the water systems make it a very significant challenge to protect them from cyber security
  • During the covid-19 pandemic in Latin America, cyber security attacks have increased by 50%
  • It is vital that citizens are included in co-creating systems that enhance water management. Are utilities and public regulators going to allow the public to be involved?

These discussions during the Forum have highlighted the existing challenges between technologies and wide implementations for digital water transition, which present the opportunities in scientific research and the engagement between scientists, practitioners, policy makers, and communities for filling the gap and accelerating the uptake of digital innovation for all.

Catch-up with the Roundtable discussion:

Date: 6 December 2021

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