ICT4Water cluster event, June 21, 2023, 9:00 – 11:00, Brussels, BluePoint
On June 21, members of the ICT4Water cluster, policy makers from various DGs, and other professionals gathered in a session to discuss the linkage of digital water to EU policies. The session was part of Water Project Europe, one of a series of events organised by Water Europe and attracted over 50 people.
Durk Krol welcomed the participants on behalf of Water Europe and stressed the good relation between Water Europe and the ICT4Water cluster.
EU policies related to Digital Water
Violeta Kuzmickaite (REA) presented the EU priorities and the commitments to the Water Action Agenda. She highlighted the European Green Deal where water is a cross-cutting issue and ICT4Water is explicitly mentioned. The evaluation of the Water Framework Directive results showed that both technical development and improved governance for water are needed to realise a boost in water efficiency.
The Zero Pollution Action Plan aims at the prevention and reduction of pollution to water and oceans and facilitate remediation. Key legislative actions of the plan include, among other things, the revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) and the revision of the list of the contaminants of emerging concern. Planned actions include the evaluation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the evaluation of the Bathing Water Directive.
Violeta highlighted the fact that Cluster 6 is the biggest contributor of Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation to the European Green Deal. All of the Cluster’s activities are targeting the Green Deal objectives and Cluster 6 relates to most of the elements of Green Deal. Water Research & Innovation is supported in Horizon Europe primarily through Cluster 6. The way water is addressed in Cluster 6 relates to several objectives of the Green Deal and their related policies, namely:
- Eliminating pollution supporting the Zero Pollution Action Plan, and other relevant policies such as the Water policies, WFD, Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals strategies.
- Protecting nature and supporting to the Biodiversity Strategy, Marine strategy.
- The objectives on climate and supporting Climate Change Adaptation Strategy as well as Industrial strategy.
- Farm-to-Fork strategy also supporting the Common Agriculture and Common Fisheries Policies.
- Striving for greener Industry and supporting in relation to the Circular Economy Action Plan and Digital Technologies.
Violeta explained how ICT4Water can make an impact and urged projects to stay connected since collaboration in the cluster is important, just as feedback to policy-makers. For example, the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform links organisations from different domains like business, civil society, cities & regions, and academia. Water Europe is one of the five academic stakeholders, and ICT4Water cluster collaborating with Water Europe can make an impact with proposing guidances, recommendations and evidence-based success stories from case studies in achieving Zero Pollution ambition goals. Furthermore, at REA, when implementing the numerous H2020 and HE projects, there are several relevant ongoing clusters like CIRSEAU, Zero Pollution 4 Water Cluster, Nexus Cluster, Nature-Based Solutions Cluster Task force, EU-India Water Cluster, Green Deal Chemicals Cluster, and the Marine Litter Cluster. ICT4Water cluster must connect / link with them on relevant specific topics in order to generate an EU-wide impact for the digitalisation of water sector and for water efficiency, quality, security.
The green and digital transitions in the water sector can offer new opportunities for achieving environmental objectives. Digital solutions can directly or indirectly contribute to the following:
- Achieve water savings, reduce pollution and accumulate other environmental gains e.g., energy efficiencies and reduced CO2 emissions along the water value chain.
- Improve operational efficiency in terms of costs i.e., CAPEX/OPEX.
- Engage consumers in sustainable behaviours in water consumption e.g., use less water.
- Enforce water regulations: e.g., geospatial intelligence for illicit water extraction or wastewater discharge.
- Manage better environmental hazards and hedge better against risks as it is the case for floods or monitor bathing water quality in real time.
Finally, an overview of water-specific topics in Horizon Europe 2023-2024 was presented. In the Horizon Europe Cluster 6 work programme 2023 > €133 million have been committed for the following water related topics:
- Interdisciplinary assessment of changes affecting terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, building on observation programmes.
- Demonstrating Nature-based Solutions for the sustainable management of water resources in a changing climate, with special attention to reducing the impacts of extreme droughts.
- Harnessing the innovation potential and market uptake of successful circular economy water related
- New circular solutions and decentralised approaches for water and wastewater management.
- Knowledge and innovative solutions in agriculture for water availability and quality.
- Demonstrating how regions can operate within safe ecological and regional nitrogen and phosphorus boundaries.
- Holistic approaches for effective monitoring of water quality in urban areas
- European Partnership Water Security for the Planet (Water4All).
- Improve the reliability and effectiveness of alternative water resources supply systems and technologies systems and circular use of water.
- Water governance, economic and financial sustainability of water systems.
Green Deal Dataspace
Sotirios Kanellopoulos (DG ENV) presented the Green Deal Data Space (GDDS), and the work DG ENV is doing in this area. The GDDS is a cross-domain data space for projects and services and covers domains like Smart Sustainable Cities, Circular Economy, Climate Mitigation and Destination Earth. Water is linked to the Zero Pollution domain. Four classes of use-cases were presented:
- Digital Product Passport in value chains
- Data intermediaries
- Integration of 3rd party systems
- Digital twins
Sotirios asked the projects to focus more on sensitive data that needs to be unlocked to generate value. Milestones in the coming period are the Mayors’s digital assembly, the User Exchange Event DestinE, and the INSPIRE conference. Outcomes from the current coordination and support actions are expected early 2024 and new calls for proposals are expected in the course of 2024. DestinE is expected to go live in the second quarter of 2024.
Presentation of the ICT4Water Cluster, its scope and thematic Action Groups.
Lydia S. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia (KWR Water Research, ICT4Water AG coordinator) introduced the ICT4Water cluster and provided an overview of the history, activities, and achievements of the cluster. She emphasizes that the cluster is about projects and highlights the publications of the cluster. Finally, the six thematic Action Groups were presented.
Digital Water and EU Policies- Challenges and prospects
How the ICT4Water cluster will contribute to EU policies related to Digital Water
The current landscape: Actions, Activities and Plans
Presentations from the ICT4WATER Action Groups, including some relevant (new and ongoing) cluster projects related thematically to the challenges
Five of the Action Groups shortly presented their key actions and plans for the coming year and their main challenges related to EU water policies.
Action Group Enable Data Sharing (EDS): Xavier Domingo (Eurecat)
Key actions are:
- Development and extension of smart data models.
- Demonstrate value of data sharing in the water sector.
Main challenges and actions related to the policy landscape are:
- Enforce data sharing at the core of EU policies.
- Promote the uptake of standard data models and semantic interoperability.
- Coordination and Support actions on data governance, privacy and security concerns.
Action Group Intelligent and Smart Systems (ISS): Joep van den Broeke (KWR)
Main topics addressed by Action Group ISS include AI, data analytics, smart sensors, and Decision Support Systems.
Main challenges related to the policy landscape are:
- Water domain governed by a myriad of directives and conventions.
- Recent directives move from traditional monitoring to risk-based approach.
- Directives do not stimulate dynamic / adaptive risk management with modern digital tools.
Key actions are:
- Development of a policy paper that analyses requirements in directives concerning monitoring and risk assessment, provides insights and recommendations how digital technologies can complement and further strengthen a risk-based approach, provides illustrations of using digital and smart technology enablers in risk-based approaches, using examples from ICT4WATER cluster projects, and identifies challenges to a transition to dynamic risk management.
- Update the DSS marketplace based on a new survey (include new projects, update on included projects).
Action Group Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP): Rafael Gimenez (Cetaqua)
Main topics addressed by Action Group CIP include providing digital solutions to strengthen the security and resilience of European Water Critical Infrastructures, technologies for risk management, building awareness and enable risk-informed decision making, and increasing water utilities organizational preparedness under crisis situations. As an example of critical infrastructure Rafael showed the damage to Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka dam.
Main challenges related to the policy landscape are:
- Encompass and highlight the role of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience of water infrastructures to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
- Promote informed insight across the Water Community on the key European strategies and instruments on Critical Infrastructure Protection (as water infrastructure is one of them) and cybersecurity of water.
- Align cross-disciplinary efforts to accelerate research projects addressing the major challenges depicted by the Directive.
Key actions related to EU water policies are:
- Consolidate links with relevant initiatives on Data Sharing to integrate CIP data.
- Ensure the continuous addition of new relevant projects into the Action Group (e.g. PathoCERT, WATERVERSE).
- Publish white paper “Raising Awareness on Cybersecurity in the Water Sector”.
- To establish the European Cluster for Securing Critical Infrastructures (ECSI)
Action Group Policies (POL): Richard Elelman (Eurecat)
Main topics of the AG are Green Deal policies, circular economy, the political helix, citizen science, and Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem-Public Health (WEFE+H) Nexus.
Main challenges related to the EU water policies are the need to:
- Upgrade policies to enhance real time, accurate, water monitoring.
- Technical standards and legislation related to digital water.
- Water security regulations.
- Data sharing, public data and privacy management policies.
- Policies for co-creation, citizen science and crowd sourcing.
- Integrate digital water components into water eGovernance.
Plans and actions related to EU water policies are:
- Promote with the EC the inclusion of mandatory real time water measurements and water quality monitoring.
- Investigate and work on the applicability and legally binding nature of specific technical standards for various water cycle domains.
- Continue upgrading legislation providing common sets of terms and conditions to be used.
- Promote legislation to enhance data exchange and data sharing across the WEFE+H Nexus.
- Develop and deploy data-intensive services for evidence-informed policymaking.
Action Group Business Models (BM): Eva Martinez (Isle Utilities)
Action Group Business Models covers drivers, accelerators, and barriers for digitalization of water sector and market update, financing programs, next generation funds, EU taxonomy to accelerate digitalization, and trends, market needs, market readiness for digital solutions.
Main challenges related to the EU water policies are:
- How can policies accelerate the adoption of IT technologies and the Digital transformation by the water utilities?
- How the water policies change the business models in the water sector?
- How to include water energy nexus in the policies so new business models including both topics are encouraged?
Regarding current policies: Now we have available funds through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) on investments in the digitalisation of the water sector across Europe.
- Examples on the funding programs created for the water sector are shown in Italy and Spain.
- How are these funds impacting on the water sector? What is happening in other countries?
Plans and actions related to EU water policies are:
- Analysis and monitoring of digitalization of tenders and programs in Europe related to water: the objective is to 1) monitor the amount of funds and topics that are dedicated in each country to the digitalization of the water sector, 2) in which part of the water cycle these funds are allocated, critical areas identified, missing ones 3) outcomes of these funds and impact in the sector, creation of value.
This info is intended to be collected through the partners of the AG.
- Ensure the continuous addition of new relevant projects into the Action Group.
ICT4WATER projects: Ongoing (new) projects linking to the challenges.
This year ICT4Water cluster family significantly enlarged with the new members. The following new member projects presented themselves shortly:
- WATERVERSE, Gerasimos Antzoulatos (CERTH-ITI): Water Data Management Ecosystem for Water Data Spaces. Aim is to develop a Water Data Management Ecosystem (WDME) for making data management practices and resources in the water sector accessible, affordable, secure, FAIR, and easy to use. WATERVERSE collaborates with, amongst others, GREAT, the Green Deal Data Space. Presentation Waterverse
- ARSINOE, Chrysi Laspidou (University of Thessaly): Climate-resilient regions through systemic solutions and innovations. ARSINOE will apply a three-tier approach to address the growing complexity, interdependencies and interconnectedness of modern societies and economies and propose climate change adaptation solutions. This approach is showcased in nine demonstrators, as a proof-of-concept with regards to its applicability, replicability, potential and efficacy. Presentation ARSINOE
- IMPETUS, Edgar Rubión Soler (Eurecat): Dynamic information management approach for the implementation of climate resilient adaptation packages in European regions. Goal is to develop and validate a coherent multi-scale, multi-level and cross-sectoral climate change adaptation framework to accelerate the transition towards a climate-neutral and sustainable economy. Presentation IMPETUS
- ULTIMATE, Joep van den Broeke (KWR): Industry water-utility symbiosis for a smarter water society. The project contributes to the transition from a linear to a circular economy to make Europe and its industries less vulnerable. ULTIMATE collaborates with the CIRSEAU, ICT4Water and BIOREFINE clusters, and Water Europe. Presentation ULTIMATE
- WATERLINE, Naomi Timmer (EJWP): Transforming advanced water skilling through the creation of a network of Extended Reality Water Emulative Centres. WATERLINE’s main aim is to create a European Digital Water HEI Alliance, based on the quadruple helix model of innovation. Presentation Waterline
- PathoCERT, Pavlos Pavlou (KIOS): Pathogen Contamination Emergency Response Technologies. PathoCERT project aims to strengthen the coordination capability of first responders in the event that they have to work in places where the risk of contamination via water is high. Presentation PathoCERT
- Water-Futures, Lydia S. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia (KWR): Smart Water Futures: designing the next generation of urban drinking water systems. The project, which ss co-funded by the ERC Synergy Grant, will result in a theoretical and practical basis for a generic framework, together with applied research tools, that could support decisions for the provisioning of future water services to more than two-thirds of the world’s population that is expected to inhabit our cities by 2050. Presentation Water-Futures
- ToDrinQ, Lydia S. Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia (KWR): Toolkit for adaptable, resilient installations securing high quality drinking water. The project aims to improve the design and operation of water treatment plants, increase drinking water system resilience, and ensure high-quality drinking water by minimising micropollutants, pathogens and disinfection by-products. Presentation ToDrinQ
Open discussion – involvement – suggestions: (moderator: Lydia Vamvakeridou-Lyroudia- KWR)
Lydia summarised the session and together with Violeta, Sotirios and Andrea, came up with the following take away messages:
- Pay attention to the transparency of data.
- Policies are needed that can adapt to the new challenges of water.
- We as a cluster need to link digital water to EU priority policies and need to contribute actively to share EU water and the EU digital policies related to water.
- Digital water is a key tool that can help to connect to other sectors and develop sustainable solutions and build a water smart society.
- Be aware of the different digital challenges in relation to water policies.
- Case studies and success stories are needed to develop evidence-based contributions/recommendations to make EU policies more innovation-friendly and address global challenges.
- Study the policies and directives. Projects cannot promote specific technologies at EU level but need to provide input and recommendations for setting the targets to achieve sustainability and green deal overall goals.
- Projects are invited “to step more into the shoes” of local, national and EU policy makers.
Durk closed the session and thanked all participants for their contributions.
The ICT4Water team