‘There is nothing in the urban watercycle that is negotiable. Water is a matter of quality and safety for citizens and the environment, of operational security, convenience and, last but not least, of expertise.’ The words are those of KWR’s CEO Wim van Vierssen, spoken on the occasion of his lecture to the fiftieth Essener Tagung in Germany. He calls for a driving role for the water sector in the circular economy, whether in terms of the recovery of raw materials from wastewater, of the storage of water in the subsurface or of innovative asset management. ‘By innovating in the water sector, society can save on costs while also improving the level of the water service provision.’
Van Vierssen notes that the water sector, despite its modest dimensions, exerts a big influence on other sectors. As an illustration, he refers to a number of examples of knowledge and reference projects that underline his point:
- The ‘urban waterbuffer’ in which rainwater is stored in the subsurface and pumped up for use in times of drought.
- The use of an autonomous inspection robot in urban drinking water distribution systems, in support of replacement programmes and leakage detection.
- Upcycling of residuals from drinking water treatment processes. The residuals can be almost completely reused in the glass, paper and carpet industries. This amounts to a sustainable enterprise with cost benefits.
- The urban watercycle is both the subject and source of inspiration for various innovations. A joint approach means achieving sustainable solutions more quickly.
- The circular economy makes it possible to bring about a more sustainable watercycle by applying technological solutions.
- A number of significant societal questions are still unresolved.
- The circular economy offers the water sector an opportunity to play a prominent role.
- Health, operational security, convenience and costs: the urban watercycle calls for specialists.