Engineering sustainable solutions to the world’s water problems is not a pipe dream, people have been doing it for centuries. Water is the essential ingredient to life. But how water is valued globally is in need of a complete overhaul if we’re going to get serious about addressing global challenges that threaten our own species as well as others.
Fortunately, there are many innovative and common technical and social solutions to water resource problems that affect all countries, but especially low to middle-income ones.
Here are some key examples:
Working towards and promoting alternatives to open defecation.
Engineering is necessary to delivering all these as well as similar solutions, but applying them has much to do with context and meaningful interactions with all stakeholders involved. Continue reading →
There is no panacea for flood events, but there is a portfolio of measures we could either do better or should consider in mitigating or adapting to floods in the UK and countries throughout the world. The recent floods caused by Storm Desmond the first week of December 2015 were devastating on both sides of the Pennines. A record breaking 341mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Not only was the 24 hour rain fall record broken, but so was the 48 hour record at 405mm. The damages were significant with tens of thousands of people evacuating their homes, widespread power loss after two substations were flooded, and transport links lost across the region.
While the magnitude of the storm rainfall was extreme, what made the flood especially severe is that the previous two months were very wet. Extreme weather events like Storm Desmond tend not to occur in isolation and nor are they evenly spaced out. In Cumbria there had already been a cluster of previous storms and this was the big one.
To manage such large floods requires an understanding of the occurrence of sequences of intense rainfall and how they may be changing, but also of course learning to deal with the flood waters in ways that are affordable and sustainable.
Goal 6 is on ensuring ‘availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. This is in line with the notion that access to water is a human right, which was approved in resolutions by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council in 2010. Ensuring that access to water and sanitation is provided for all is not merely a question of technical accessibility, but about democratic politics. However, if this is to be achieved, especially in the developing world, we need to critically examine the dominant international trends that treat water as a commodity as this is a major impediment for achieving Goal 6.
This is a blog post originally published at http://www.water-energy-food.org following an invitation to write some comments on a talk held at the German Pavillion at Rio+20.
“An avid follower of the Nexus Platform website, I was thrilled to find out about the side event happening at the German Pavillion at Rio+20. This discussion, held in the late afternoon of what was otherwise a disappointing Thursday at the Earth Summit, gave me encouragement on two accounts before I had even arrived.” – Edward Byers
Following the signing of a Research Concordat between the University and Northumbrian Water Ltd in June 2011, the pace of interaction between teams from both organisations is accelerating, and yielding all sorts of ideas for collaborative research on sustainability issues – and many of these go far beyond our traditional areas of interaction on water and wastewater.