The ALICE week events organised by project leader Ulster University on 13-15 September 2017 in Belfast consisted in an interdisciplinary training and a workshop attended by 13 partners from all over the EU to discuss the challenges wastewater facilities faced due to the uncertainty effect of climate change and the solutions.
The interdisciplinary training, building on the strong multidisciplinary nature of the ALICE project, provided participants a better understanding of the topics and research to be discussed during the project and helped identify synergies with different disciplines to address the challenges. The training included key presentations by project partner experts on topics such as: vulnerability assessment and wastewater infrastructures, wastewater and governance, water and renewable energy nexus in WW treatments plants, water reclaimed: problems and solutions and techniques in environmental economics to involve local stakeholders.
The workshop open to the wide public included interventions on the challenges in WW management for climate change, innovation in the resource and energy management of WW treatment plants, energy efficiency in wastewater infrastructure: the case of NI Water, innovative technologies for wastewater treatment and reuse, nanomaterials and water reuse, reclaimed water in agriculture: the case of Region de Murcia, social barriers to innovation: the society’s role, software tools for wastewater treatment management; and stakeholder engagement.
A on site visit at NI Water in Antrim was organised to discuss and experience challenges and potential.
Some of the topics discussed are presented here below:
Prof. Marc Neumann, from BC3, discussed the concept of resilience in wastewater infrastructure and the framework of the vulnerability studies that will be developed within the ALICE project. In detail, the general framework for the vulnerability assessment of wastewater infrastructures will include: compiling climate and socioeconomic information, evaluating the climate sensitivity and determining the adaptive capacity of wastewater infrastructure. The structure proposed has been developed with the aim to overcome current shortcomings of vulnerability assessment studies, such as the need of a standard procedure to allow benchmarking and comparisons and the definition of unknown stressors that have a strong effect on the performance of a wastewater treatment plant.
Prof. Erik Longo discussed the challenges of water governance. He highlighted how the challenges in the field of water, energy and climate change cannot be treated independently from one another. Prof. Longo stressed on the fact that the problem faced by the water sector is not only a problem of ‘water scarcity’. The governance of water and wastewater is critical. Governance activities and responsibilities are increasingly distributed across spatial levels. Decentralization, privatisation and subsidiarity (vertical and horizontal) are threatening a good management of the water sector.
Due to public health concerns associated with the development of antibiotic resistance (i.e. some antibiotics are no longer effective against certain bacterial organisms as the bacteria have developed ‘resistance’ to the treatment) and the potential for the environment to act as a reservoir for these antibiotic resistant pathogens, Dr. Patrick Dunlop and researchers at NIBEC Centre of Ulster University are developing new technologies which can remove low-level antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria from water and wastewater.
Dr. Simone Cerroni focused on public acceptance and social barriers to accepting the reuse of wastewater for agricultural and drinking purposes, with particular emphasis on the latter. The general public’s acceptance of reusing water as drinking water is generally quite low and driven by few key factors. The presentation described economic techniques that may help disentangling the influence of some drivers, such as perceived risks, trust and perceived quality on preferences.