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Signalling and managing risks in the application of new technologies

Safe innovation and the water sector

Technological innovations can involve risks to (drinking) water and public health. Greater public awareness, and adequate risk assessment and management can create the right risk perception, and lead to public acceptance of the innovations. By means of research, the water sector wants to proactively determine the connections between the opportunities, the safety and the acceptance of new technologies. KWH offers concrete solutions by conducting research to determine and possibly manage any potential risks. This work contributes to maintaining strong public trust in the water sector.

Uncertainties of innovations

The Dutch government and the EU strongly stimulate innovation. Take for example the areas of emerging contaminants, nanotechnology, new forms of energy extraction, such as shale gas, or the development of a bio-based economy. But besides raising expectations, innovations also create uncertainties. They are often put on the market without due adjustments to the regulatory framework. Or there is inadequate understanding of the possible risks they present to (drinking) water, or of the conditions for their public acceptance. By means of research, the water sector wants to proactively determine the connections between the opportunities, the safety and the acceptance of new technologies.

Research and risk management

To develop concrete solutions for safe innovation, KWH conducts research into the assessment and management of potential risks associated with new technologies. Some examples of this research are listed below:

Risk assessment and management

Signalling and management of potential risks to public health in drinking water production and distribution – for example, through quantitative risk analysis (such as Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment, or QMRA) and qualitative Water (Cycle) Safety Plans (WSPs). We develop innovative methods comprising both the exposure assessments, the intrinsic hazard of the application of new technologies and the risks. Here are some examples:

Overarching method

Development and validation of an overarching method for risk analysis of new technologies, directed at water quality and public health, and built upon existing methods.

Safe water

Research into fundamental and practical aspects of the effectiveness of treatment processes, and options for non-technological interventions to improve water quality and the use of water systems.

Risk perception and safety

Research into citizen’s expectations and perceptions of the risks and safety of water systems, and into the water sector’s risk communication.

Maintaining public trust

With its risk analysis, risk management and research, KWH provides the water sector with indicators for the safe implementation of new technologies. The sector can then react proactively to risks whenever necessary. The indicators also help technology developers produce safe, effective and efficient innovations, thus enhancing market acceptance. Furthermore, public authorities are provided with transparent information to support them in decisions about possible additional policies. This contributes to maintaining strong public trust in the water sector.

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