As appetite for the world’s most important resource continues to grow – from water use in industrial processes and agriculture to intensity of urban demand – a new European consortium called NextGen is setting out to challenge embedded thinking and practices in the water sector. By embracing ‘circular economy’ principles and technological innovation to preserve natural capital, optimise resources and improve system efficiency, NextGen aims to boost sustainability and bring new market dynamics throughout the water cycle.
Amongst an array of solutions proposed, advance treatment technologies and nature-inspired storage solutions will optimise water resources; managing and recovering energy more efficiently will turn treatment plants into positive energy generators; and ground breaking nutrient mining and reuse will create new products from waste streams.
Tangible, high-performance innovation, business models and governance conditions to mainstream these solutions are at the heart of NextGen, with 10 large-scale demonstrations in eight different EU countries. Six sites will demonstrate a completely new approach to water supply infrastructures and solutions in urban or rural areas. These full-scale deployments will build capacity, experience and financial models in a further four sites – plus inspire others around Europe and worldwide. Associate partners in the project include organisations from Korea, India and China.
Because everything we own or consume has a water footprint and our every gesture depends on it, the project is also designed to be ‘circular’ in its consultation of citizens and stakeholders. NextGen will aim to energise and engage others to participate in the design and assessment of selected solutions. This includes co-designing new technologies through local Living Lab structures and taking a leadership role in collaboration platforms and events. Serious games will be used to envisage and test applications and augmented reality applications developed to increase the learning value and understanding of what the demonstrated solutions can achieve.
Global circular economy pioneers
The breadth of this approach will produce a new level of ability to recover, refine, reuse, repurpose and extend the use-life of an ever-increasing range of water resources and products. It is hoped this will help reinforce the European water and allied sectors as global circular economy pioneers able to transfer and up-scale innovation effectively.
Wide mix of skills and actors
A wide mix of skills and actors will help realise this vision and the project comprises a strong partnership of water companies, industry, specialised SMEs, applied research institutes, technology platforms, city and regional authorities. For each of them, NextGen builds on an impressive portfolio of research and innovation projects and leverages multiple European and global networks to deliver real impact. It is lead and coordinated by Dutch water cycle research institute, KWR.
KWR’s involvement in NextGen is its overall coordination, setting up communities of practice for engagement of stakeholders, resilience assessment of technology systems, and developing an EU governance roadmap for water in the circular economy. Together with the Province of South Holland, KWR will do an assessment of integrated circular water and energy systems for the region Westland.
NextGen will officially launch in July 2018. Follow the project’s first steps on Twitter @NextGenWaterEU.
Major new #EU initiative announced to evaluate and champion #circulareconomy solutions & systems in the water sector: https://t.co/qH3qmrnmLD #ValueofWater #WaterSmartSociety pic.twitter.com/J9v9TRsJVg
— NextGen Water Solutions (@NextGenWaterEU) 16 mei 2018
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