If it isn’t in the water, you won’t need to remove it. Besides end-of-pipe measures aimed at improving water quality, it is also advisable to study how emissions of substances earlier in the cycle or chain might be cut back – during production or consumption, for instance. Identifying those substance groups that present opportunities and solutions for such a chain approach, is the subject of the ‘Chain Explorer’ research project, which is part of the Water Quality Knowledge Impulse (KIWK) programme.
What is the problem?
Substances and substance groups can represent a threat to the quality of groundwater and surface water. Governments are responsible for safeguarding this water quality. They do this, among others, by treating wastewater, and by establishing and enforcing legal and regulatory frameworks. But many other actors have an impact on water quality. For instance, the use of medication results in human pharmaceutical residues ending up in the water chain and impacting the environment. In the ‘Reducing Pharmaceutical Residues in Water: A Chain Approach’ project, partners from the water sector, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are working together to reduce these effects. The substance chains and the product chains more or less coincide in the pharmaceutical chain, so that the different actors can be clearly identified. But this is not the case for substance groups for which it is difficult to establish where, and through which chains, the pollutants reach the water, and which actors play a part in this. In the present project we will be mapping out these elements for three substance groups.
What are we going to do?
The Chain Explorer project will address the following questions for three selected substance groups:
- Which actors (stakeholders or chain partners) play a role in the chains of the selected substance groups; from design and production through to the waste phase?
- What is the current situation within these substance groups; what knowledge is available?
- What knowledge is still needed (knowledge gaps) in order to acquire a good picture of the emissions, actors and their impact on water quality?
- What are the action points – in the areas technology, management and behaviour – at which the water quality can be positively affected for the relevant substance (sub) groups?
The three selected substance groups are: micro- and nanoplastics, biocides and consumer products. The selection was made from a long list of potential candidate substances/substance chains for research, taking into consideration the insight and knowledge of the water managers within the KIWK. Since the selection still concerns very broad groups of substances, during the course of the project a further selection of sub-groups will be made as a basis for addressing the above-mentioned questions.
What will the project yield?
This project emphasises the collection of existing knowledge, the filling of any knowledge gaps, and the dissemination of this knowledge to the water sector and other chain partners. The project outcomes will provide water managers and chain partners with the means required to truly achieve a (chain) approach and thereby bring about an improvement in water quality.
The results will be reported in the form of so-called ‘Deltafacts’; online knowledge files with a concise, powerful summary of the state-of-the-art knowledge about a particular knowledge question. All of the collected knowledge will then be incorporated as background for the Deltafacts in a green paper. The dissemination of the collected knowledge and insights will subsequently take place through public meetings.