Governance and knowledge action for the circular water cycle

In this project we research the governance of the circular urban water cycle in four pilots. A knowledge-action method provides insights into the role distribution between stakeholders, the optimum scale and the distribution of value (cost-benefit). The method’s implementation makes it possible to compare the results of the different pilots. The drinking water companies can then develop strategies directed towards the circular economy. In knowledge workplaces, the outcomes are applied in practice and normative discussions can be held about governance.

Appropriate governance for the urban water cycle

As we transition to a circular economy, new technologies are emerging that make it possible to organise the urban water cycle more smartly and to connect it to the raw material and energy resource loops. In most cases, if the initiatives are to succeed, not only does the technology need to be adapted but changes need to be made in the governance system as well.

Our focus in this research is on three aspects of governance: stakeholders and their roles, scale, and value creation and distribution. This focus is in line with the topic of “multiple value creation”. With knowledge about the governance aspects of a circular water cycle, water organisations can define their own role and develop a strategic action perspective.

Four pilots

In this project we research the governance system of the circular water cycle in four pilots:

By studying the same themes in different pilots we’re able to compare the different results. On this basis, the drinking water companies can develop strategies directed towards the circular economy. Besides these four pilots, the project activities can be extended to other regions where water companies are involved in circular initiatives.

Along with knowledge development, the explicit objective of this project is to apply the knowledge in practice. To this end, knowledge workplaces will be set up in which the different stakeholders will share their knowledge. These also provide a context in which strategists, policy-makers and directors of water companies and waterboards can draw on what is learned in the pilots. Operational mechanisms from the pilots will be implementable in existing organisations. Descriptive knowledge originating in the pilots will constitute the basis for a normative discussion about governance. Any new questions that might arise in this context can be researched in the pilots.

Insight into the governance context

The results of this research project will provide insight into the governance context and the transition to a circular urban water cycle. In the first instance, the outcomes are intended for strategic advisors, directors and decision-makers, to help them better adapt their decisions to the dynamic developments in the circular economy. Since end-users participate in the knowledge-action system, both joint knowledge production and the direct transfer of the research outcomes also take place.