Moving towards sustainable water management
In progress from 01-04-2012 to 01-04-2013
Project manager: Thomas Hillenbrand
Environment, Environmental technology, Expert-based, Sustainability
Background and central aspects of the topic
Water is the essential basis for life, the natural environment and a location factor all at the same time. The available water resources therefore have to be used sustainably with regard to both quantity and quality. Quantitatively, water extraction is not allowed to exceed the rate of replenishment. With regard to quality, sustainably managing water resources means avoiding or eliminating pollution.
A limited supply of clean water harbours high health risks and acts as a major obstacle to socioeconomic development. The contamination of waters with nutrients, heavy metals and other anthropogenic substances (industrial and agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and their metabolites) represents a major challenge to water management. Many of these substances are persistent, partially bioaccumulative and have harmful effects even at very low concentrations.
On top of this, socioeconomic factors mean that water management has to cope with additional problems and challenges. Demographic changes and the consequences of continued industrialization combined with climate change and resource shortages exacerbate water problems.
Against this background, there will be massive growth on the markets for water technologies worldwide. This leads to increasing internationalization as well as changes in the conditions for competition. In developing and emerging economies, it is often the case that functioning water infrastructure systems first have to be developed. The efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for water have to be stepped up considerably, especially with regard to improving sanitation facilities. To achieve this goal, it will not be sufficient to simply export technologies from industrial countries. Instead these have to be adapted to the respective social and technological conditions on location. For sustainable operation, it is essential to create reliable institutional framework conditions.
In this situation, the innovation process in water technologies is accorded particular significance: On the one hand, technologies of the conventional system harbour the potential for further development to improve resource efficiency and decrease pollutants. On the other hand, technology advances improve the application chances of more flexible, decentralized approaches, which integrate the functions of water supply and wastewater disposal into sub-domains of the infrastructure sectors of energy and waste. Besides technology development, there is a large potential in the combination of different technology components to form overall concepts which are innovative, and energy- and resource-efficient. Finally, competitiveness and the readiness to transfer technology and to enter technology cooperations are also decisively influenced by the technological capability of the individual countries.
Objective and procedure
The aim of the project is to examine the challenges associated with moving towards sustainable water management and the innovation processes required for this using the following five steps.
Read more on the project homepage
- Challenges and trends: The challenges currently facing water management are elaborated. The following will be dealt with: the development of pollution levels in drinking water supplies, the trends and determinants of using and consuming water, the specific challenges in developing countries and arid regions as well as the opportunities and challenges due to technical developments.
- Innovation dynamics and technological capability: With the help of innovation indicators, relevant technologies will be examined for Germany, the OECD countries and important emerging economies. Subsequently, the technological capability of Germany will be analysed in an international comparison.
- Conditions for the development and diffusion of emerging technologiesBased on the analysis of the conditions for the development of new water technologies and their diffusion, possible starting points for national implementation strategies and incentive mechanisms will be discussed.
- International dimension and conditions for technology transfer: For emerging economies, it is examined to what extent absorptive capacity, which is the precondition for successful technology transfer, has already been developed. The main question for developing countries, based on current import figures, is how can sustainable concepts and technologies be rapidly implemented?
- Conclusions and options: Finally, design options will be developed for national policies and measures to improve technology transfer.