“One of the most important challenges, if not the most important, is the protection of our drinking water sources. Good water quality and sufficient availability of fresh water in the future are no longer self-evident.” says Joke Cuperus. Being of great value for AIWW as one of our Sponsors, we asked her to give her view on the AIWW Conference 2019 themes and topics.
This year’s main theme is the ‘Implementation of integrated solutions by cities, industries, utilities and financiers: from cases to bankable projects.’
Q: What do you see as some of the key issues where there are both important needs and strong opportunities to innovate? Please comment on why these are significant, and how you see progress can be made.
“One of the most important challenges, if not the most important, is the protection of our drinking water sources. Good water quality and sufficient availability of fresh water in the future are no longer self-evident.”
“On the one hand, opportunities to innovate are monitoring and advanced methodologies that monitor the state of the ecosystem and positively influence and/or improve it. On the other hand, innovation is to create an overview of the threats for sources (microplastics, antibiotic resistance, micro contamination, salinization/disruption) in densely populated areas in the deltas in particular.”
“There are also possibilities for innovation in technology and infrastructure to keep sufficient clean and reliable drinking water available for everyone in the above regions and for everyone to be able to have it. Start with source protection and conscious use in the chain. Source protection is essential, because the ecological condition of your source reflects the health of the society.”
“To improve your drinking water system/source, you have to join forces with social parties that want to be sustainable. The society is ready for this and we need to help in order to be more sustainable as a social movement. Sustainability is important for our source. We have to facilitate based on our research agenda and it helps that we work from a utility environment, because that is for everyone’s benefit.”
Q: How important are partnerships in order to address water issues, including partnerships with the public, and partnerships across sectors? How can partnerships help, and what is the key to developing and progressing these partnerships?
“Collaboration is essential. We must enter partnerships and form alliances in order to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Also cross-sectoral. The way PWN works with the Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier (HHNK) in North Holland is a good example. Together we feel responsible for the water chain and we actively work on cleaner sources. For example we do this by conducting joint pilots and studies aiming for cleaner effluent. If we succeed in creating cleaner effluent, it creates cleaner surface water. Also collaborations with start-ups are interesting and we form alliances internationally. For example, PWN formed a “Utilities Alliance” with PUB and South West Water. The goal is to share knowledge about the latest water technology innovations and best practices for ceramic membrane systems. PWN does this based on its innovative character.”
Q: What do you see as some of the important changes in skills and expertise needed in the water sector? How does this affect your organization, and how are you responding?
“We are facing great challenges. In order to be able to continue to supply sustainable and excellent drinking water now and in the future and to keep nature bio-diverse and ecologically resilient, we must respond to climate change, population growth and pollution of our water. At the same time, our customers are becoming more critical and technical and digital developments are moving faster and faster. This is why we are looking for digital natives who are innovative, decisive and able to connect (to identify and enter the right partnerships). At the same time, we and our future employees must be even more aware that we, as a water chain, are part of the entire river basin. For PWN and HHNK this concerns the Rhine area and for other areas in the Netherlands it concerns the Maas area. This means that you have to strengthen your network at European level. There are already structures for this, but we need to strengthen these.”
“Ultimately this means that for our organization and employees we cannot limit ourselves, but we have to talk to the environment at different levels before we can come up technical solutions or implementation.”
Q: What for your organization is the value in participating in, and being associated with, AIWW?
“PWN believes in sharing knowledge. AIWW is one of the ways to exchange experiences, learn from each other and above all to inspire each other. For this, it is important to meet each other. AIWW offers an excellent national and international platform for this.”