Innovation Case Study: Alternative Water Sources

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Innovation Case Study: Alternative Water Sources

Solving water problems or creating a new one? Alternative water sources (desalination/reclaimed water)

There are not many European regions with integrated management of desalination and reclaimed urban wastewater for irrigation purposes. In this regard, the Canary Islands (CI) Archipelago (Spain) is a singular territory with more than 50 years of desalination experience and more than 30 with reuse water initiatives for irrigation. Therefore, the analysis of the use of alternative water sources in this region can provide insights of how these innovations performed in practice, what key challenges emerged and what are the key barriers constraining their implementation.

The analysis of this innovation will involve two phases:

Phase 1

An analysis of the narratives focussed on WEF-Nexus of agricultural production in the Islands will be used to identify a list of relevant questions and checks as it is required by a systemic multi-level integrated assessment of this type of alternative water sources. The grammars developed in WP4 for the Almeria and the Canary Island pilot studies will be adapted to the context of the case study to design a tool for integrated assessment of different options in relation to the use of alternative water sources.

Partners: JRC, ITC, UAB.

Phase 2

MuSIASEM and Quantitative Story Telling (QST) will be applied to check the usefulness of the proposed tool of multi-level integrated assessment in participatory processes (discussing a centralised strategy in Tenerife island vs. smaller and decentralised concept in the Gran Canaria island). QST can be used to check relevant aspects such as: the energy requirements of these technologies and the role that renewable energies can play, the cost/price of these sources in relation to the compliance with the WFD cost recovery principle, water quality limitations and the pollutant-free priority for irrigation according to the current and future normative (next reuse water European framework), environmental aspects like the effect of non-treated wastewater on fresh water bodies and marine waters/ecosystem (water pollution, eutrophication, health, etc.).

The tool will be used in:

  1. diagnostic mode to analyse the current water metabolism and identify potential problems and risks related to the existing narratives about these innovations. The outcomes of the analysis will be discussed with relevant social actors in order to identify key challenges and alternatives to overcome them. Different scenarios will be codesigned considering external drivers (new regulations, market changes, climate change etc.) and internal ones (changes in water planning and management, environmental impacts);
  2. simulation mode to discuss scenarios in order to anticipate the role that desalination and treated wastewater reuse innovations can play in the metabolic pattern of European regions with water scarcity.

The general questions posed for the case study are: Are the desalination and wastewater reuse viable innovations for solving the problem of the irrigation at local/regional level? Under which premises? What are the technological, environmental and social challenges/keystones for the successful of any EU reuse water strategy for food? What lessons can be drawn for other European regions in light of the upcoming Directive on wastewater reuse? What are the implications for the WEF Nexus? What is the validity of the narrative in this innovation vis-à-vis societal expectations and insights? Are there any alternatives to this type of innovation?

Partners: JRC, ITC, UAB.

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