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Developing sustainable and economically efficient solutions for an optimized use of water through local living labs, integration of data and collaboration

The water sector in coastal areas is facing challenges such as water scarcity and increasing water demands due to economic and population growth. This can lead to overexploitation of resources, quality deterioration and regional imbalances in the availability of water resources. To tackle these challenges, the European research project ‘building a water-smart society and economy’, short B-WaterSmart, develops and demonstrates smart technologies and circular economy approaches.

In order to anchor those solutions in the practice of the water sector, the project partners are developing technical and digital solutions as well as new business models The aim is to accelerate the transformation to water-smart economies and societies in coastal Europe and beyond, by reducing the use of freshwater resources, improving the recovery and reuse of resources, and increase water use efficiency.

Six living labs will develop and demonstrate solutions for a water smart society

This project has a lighthouse character. We consider the water cycle to be a holistic system of nature, technology and society. In cooperation with various interest groups, innovative solutions are co-developed and tested at six sites, called Living Labs, spread across Europe. These are intended to support water companies and municipalities in making their water systems and services sustainable, water-smart and more resilient to climate change.

The research therefore is based on specific problems in six European coastal cities and regions that have great ambitions to tackle their challenges and opportunities by implementing water-smart technology and management solutions. Water companies from Alicante in Spain, Bodø in Norway, Flanders in Belgium, Lisbon in Portugal, East Frisia in Germany and Venice in Italy develop and demonstrate solutions as Living Labs, together with research partners and local technology providers.

Living lab in Flanders

KWR is involved in in the living lab Flanders that assesses the potential of the regional water system to incorporate watersmart solutions and close water cycles, with the aim to increase resilience while ensuring safe water reuse. The focus is on the use of alternative water sources on one hand and the collection, treatment and use of rainwater through a smart collection system on the other hand. “A smart regional analysis of the various water demanders and water users is needed,” says Geertje Pronk of KWR. “The aim is to find and promote smart solutions that address multiple problems and/or allow water demanders and providers to work together efficiently in a regional context”. In the living lab Flanders, KWR closely collaborates with local partners De Watergroep, Aquafin, Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt, the city of Mechelen and Vlakwa, as well as with local stakeholders.

Infographic waterstromen

Infographic watersystem and water reuse

Data integration and collaboration

The integration of local data provides input for new water-smart application and data. These lead to tools instrumental in 1) monitoring, negotiation and decision support and 2) water cycle modelling and assessment solutions.

Within B Watersmart, the living labs are keen to involve all relevant local partners in communities of practice to achieve maximum impact and acceptance.

The project is coordinated by IWW Water Centre in Germany and includes 36 partners from eight different countries. B-WaterSmart is funded within the framework of the EU program “Horizon 2020”.