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Circular Water Management 2: Closing the H2O loop

Lead contributor: Dr. Hernan Ruiz Ocampo

Following the framework described in the chapter  “Circular Water Management: A framework for the transition”,  this chapter presents the intersection between the third principle of circular economy adapted to the water sector, the regeneration of natural basin systems, at the macro level, involving integrated urbanwater management as an essential component towards developing a water ecosystem. Climate change impacts urban areas with greater frequency and exposes cities on floodplains to extreme cloudbursts events, and rising sea levels is also a threat for coastal cities. A holistic approach for regenerating natural basin systems to provide a reliable water supply and considering multistakeholder governance participation will engage all the actors across the water value chain to create a collaborative ecosystem. The chapter presents the OECD principles for water governance grouped into three concepts: effectiveness, efficiency, trust, and engagement. 

Appropriate integrated urban water management needs to build resilience against the risk of floods in cities and preserve freshwater and groundwater resources. Urban planning needs to consider investing in water utilities and promote hybrid grey and green infrastructures to reduce water loss andoperating costs. The systemic approach will allow developing a collaborative environment from water utility management to the consumer and vice versa, fostering citizen inclusion and influencing citizen behaviour. 

In this sense, identifying enablers in the water sector play an essential role in the transition to the circular economy. Digital technologies will allow the smart management of water utilities. Novel technologies have an enormous potential for applications in the water value chain, such as sensors, monitoring and forecasting, data processing (ML, AI), augmented, virtual and digital twin reality and blockchain. Novel technologies will enable the remote monitoring of multiple treatment parameters in water utilities. Process optimization and predictive maintenance through sensors and connected equipment will optimize processes to reduce operational costs and time reaction to prevent failures in the system. Consumer monitoring consumption through the web, mobile and home connected devices aim to improve customer engagement through an enhanced digital user experience. 

Finally, circular business models implementation will create an ecosystem where water streams become a source of nutrients, minerals, metals for industries. The diversification of water sources allows fit for use water quality, and energy production offers an alternative source to the power distribution grid. The mapping of the strategies defined in the circular water framework into different circular design strategies from the literature, such as the resource cycles approach, allowed to propose a business model tool based on the traditional business canvas and the value creation, value proposition, value delivery and value capture approach. 

Thus, the chapter aims to guide the readers through an overview of the water sector from a macro perspective, contributing to a water framework and showing the different approaches and tools for a successful transition to the circular economy in the water sector. 

What's inside

What are the challenges to come for water management?

By 2050, urban areas will host 70% of the global population, pushing industrial and domestic water to grow faster than agricultural demand, but agriculture will remain the largest. Discover the challenges of water management in the transition to the circular economy.

How to regenerate natural basins systems?

Discover how circular strategies can provide adequate Integrated Urban Water Management to close the loop at the macro level and develop healthier and resilient cities towards climate change, where sanitation, sewerage, and clean water supply are essential for building a liveable city.

How can governance enable the circular economy transition?

Governance plays a crucial role in the transition. Learn how the OECD framework for water governance supports adaptative measures to specific conditions based on diverse legal, administrative, and organizational systems and tools from different countries.

How to ensure water security?

Water security is a growing concern due to the increase of conflicts related to water accessibility. Explore the main issues related to limits, usages, and rights over water resources and how disagreement can become a source of conflict due to a lack of understanding between parts.

What about water infrastructures?

Learn how Integrated Urban Water Management can foster the implementation of modular blue-green infrastructures that can provide climate change resilience for urban areas, reduce combined sewer overflow and flooding, and extend the life cycle of water utilities.

How can digital technologies enable the circular economy in the water sector?

Explore the digital technologies that offer unlimited potential to transform the world’s water systems, helping utilities become more resilient, innovative, efficient, and building a stronger and more economically viable foundation for the future.

Which mechanisms can foster citizen engagement in the water sector?

Consumer requirements and behavior have always played an important role in service delivery, and citizen participation is essential for the transition. Learn through examples how to foster interdependent relationships between water utilities and consumers.

What is the value of water?

Learn now through the circular strategies for business models and the relationship with the water strategies how to implement circular services and products, minimizing socio-economic and societal impact towards the transition to the circular economy.