Urban Water Challenges

Mayors & Water – the Urban Water Challenges

1. Water Scarcity: by 2030 there will be a global gap between water supply and demand of 40% (more at website Mc Kinsey Company). Water has a very local dimension, and scarcity and droughts have far reaching consequences. Various regions in Europe (North, South, East and West) are threatened by a lack of water or under stress of salinization. Can European cities safeguard their water needs?

schoon drinkwater2. Water Quality: there is a long list of molecules that threaten the health of our drinking water, livestock, process water, fish, shellfish and swimming water: pharmaceuticals (more at Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu), personal care products, organic compounds, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, and other priority substances (more at website European Commission). The traditional waste water treatment plants are not designed to eliminate these substances. Can European cities continue to supply safe drinking water to its citizens despite these new challenges?

3. Ageing Infrastructure: waste water treatment, sewage pipes and drinking water pipes and drinking water production sites have various lifespans and consequently various investment cycles. In many European cities and countries, the current water tariffs do not take investments in ageing infrastructure into account (more in European Environmental Agency report). Simply replacing what has been built in the past is also not feasible. How can cities guarantee the sustainability of their infrastructure? How can infrastructure be adapted for climate change (more in European Commission staff working document)? How to enhance separation at source?

4. Water Framework Directive (WFD): compliance with WFD standards is falling behind schedule. Not only will this effect ecological conditions and suitability for tourism and recreation. It also indicates that these waters cannot supply the surrounding industries, cities and agriculture with the water resources they need. How can WFD act as a tool to safeguard water supply to European cities? (more at WFD at DG Environment)

5. Circular Economy: the drive for a circular economy puts water at the centre. As the most common used solvent on the planet most of our resources end up in water. Communal waste water treatment plants are a good source for energy, nutrients, cellulose, bioplastics and proteins. Industrial waste water can contain metals, minerals, proteins and fatty acids. Closer to the source leads to higher quality of recovered material. How to best integrate waste water into urban circular economy strategies? (more at DG Environment)

6. Smart Cities: European cities are faced with major environmental, societal and health challenges and are in need of innovative solutions. Some of these major challenges aggravate the urban water challenges in other cases water is the answer of the challenge. Which role should water play in Smart Cities? (more info at EIP Smart Cities)

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