Project Objectives

The comprehensiveness of assessing and implementing water reuse and recycling technologies has been the subject of controversy and debate in the current literature.  It has been recognized, however, that in order to be able to maximize the benefits from any water resource project, a larger systemic analysis of the surrounding environment is needed, a broadening of the traditional narrow planning and management approaches, and an increased sensitivity to decision-making problems associated with multi-objective, multi-purpose actions and multi-uses/users considerations.  The framework for implementing water reuse and recycling technologies would include a mix of such considerations as natural conditions  (e.g. aridity, global change); variety of uses (irrigation, municipal uses, water quality, effluent control, etc.); sources of supply (surface, groundwater, mixed); and socio-demographic conditions (such as population growth, urbanization, industrialization, etc.).

Latin America’s wealth of water (about 26% of the Earth’s total) represents an important resource and should in theory provide a firm foundation for adaptation to support human well-being even under conditions of change. Latin America’s water resources provide and support many human and natural benefits, or ecosystem services3. These benefits include clean water, fresh air, fertile soils, hydropower, food, timber, grazing lands as well as a range of cultural services and values. Furthermore, water also provides the range of options through which ecosystems and species, as well as human users of ecosystems, can adapt to changing climatic and other environmental conditions. Careful management of this “adaptation base” is of central importance in all efforts to build Latin American resilience to climate change and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)4. The UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Convention to Combat Desertification and Framework Convention on Climate Change have all highlighted the importance of water and ecosystem services in supporting and enhancing human well-being

Currently, the development of Latin America’s water resources is in many watersheds/catchment areas far from sustainable, allowing vital assets to degrade and leaving the continent more vulnerable to future change. Key constraints to integrated management include inadequate knowledge of water systems and water technologies components, and the potential for non-linear ecological change, as well as an absence of appropriate tools and the capacity with which to interpret the data and manage complex social-ecological interactions. The current situation seems one in which policy, decision makers and stakeholders are often usually uninvolved and unaware of the rapidly growing field of water reuse and recycling research and knowledge. Furthermore, the expertise, data and methods developed are often not in a format useful to the decision-makers which need tools and information who they can apply in their day to day activities

Thus, the overall Objective is to assess the potential of various water recycling and reuse technologies for Latin America, quantify the actual needs, benefits and costs of those technologies, evaluate their social acceptance, and provide affordable, efficient and effective solutions for water supply and sanitation in rural and agricultural areas in the context of climate change and water scarcity mitigation. Emphasis will be given to address the complexity between technological options and societal needs, through applying an ecosystem approach in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) frameworks and building a methodology embedding a knowledge base and a toolbox for enhancing the capacity for adaptive governance and management in the area. This approach may lead in presenting technology developments that integrate engineering, physical, and ecological sciences, while at the same time integrating the water reuse and recycling infrastructure. In this context, such issues will be compiled into a web based toolbox that will show-case best practice and models that can be applied in a variety of environmental and socio-economic conditions within the Latin American region.

 

The importance of water systems (from river basins up to individual stream level) for fresh water, food, energy and recreation is more than apparent, yet there is increasing evidence that degradation of water systems is proliferating in recent years. However, a distinction has to be made between degradation of water per se in regards to quality/quantity and degradation or inadequate infrastructure and technologies.  Aging related infrastructure and failures and at the same time technological development and breakdowns pose immediate needs to assess reuse and recycling technologies and its ability to meet current and future demands. Policy instruments and guidelines for implementation are also needed in order to make any technological solutions applicable and efficient. Such policy development should coincide with on going efforts to incorporate reuse and recycling technologies. This significant intersection of infrastructure and environmental degradation may provide unprecedented and largely unappreciated opportunities for water reuse and recycling technologies. In this regard, COROADO would focus on trying to solve the existing gridlock of three areas:

 

  • Assessing the reuse and recycling technologies for Latin America (water and wastewater treatment plants, irrigation systems, etc.).  Rapid growth of population, economy and infrastructure has been experienced in the last century in many parts of the continent. Furthermore, such traits are exacerbated by climate changes and water scarcity. Thus substantial funds would be required in order to reach again acceptable levels of safety and function for appropriate water supply. Such funding seems difficult to be appropriated, but it may seem that societies may have no choice, but to pay the price for the years to come. Reuse and recycling technologies could play a crucial role in a sustainable solution;

 

  • Degradation in both quality and quantity of water systems and the loss of associated ecosystem services. Significant ecological degradation is associated, at least partially, on the water use patterns in relation to infrastructure expansion.  Irrigation networks, water conveyance structures and roads increase sediment erosion, fragment habitat, and facilitate the spread of invasive species. Coastal areas and estuaries have been altered due to urban sprawl.  Dams and levees restrict fish migration and have drastically altered river basins flow regimes.  Implications of infrastructure degradation on ecosystems, (treatment plants effluents, silted up dams etc.) are compounding to the problems.  Furthermore, offshore platforms discharge waste and release atmospheric pollution;

 

  • Incorporating reuse and recycling technologies in an integrated management scheme. So far, such efforts have often been limited in scale, and their effectiveness is frequently unclear often because they do not usually address the system as a whole. However, it seems that there is growing need for, political will, education and, further funding to include the integrated management of water resources and the capacity of ecosystems to maintain generation of a broad range of services in the face of uncertainty and change..

Such an approach may enable decision-makers to assess the immediate and long-term effectiveness of reuse and recycling technologies and to design appropriate environmental planning and optimal investment strategies at local and regional level, in line also with the requirements of various water related EU and other International policies.

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