On October 23 representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia in cooperation with members of Riga Technical University Water research and biotehnology laboratory held iWatermap stakeholders’ meeting on challenges in the water technology sector in Europe and Latvia. The meeting was a part of a series of events aimed at increasing the capacity of the Latvian water technology sector by strengthening cooperation and formulating a position on solutions to current issues.
- Meeting on Challenges in the Water Technology Sector – Done
- Ideation session on the possible solutions on the challenges – Upcoming
- Concept development workshop – Upcoming
More than 50 representatives of various private, state and municipal companies, state institutions and scientific research organizations met to discuss issues and visions regarding specifically wastewater and sewage sludge treatment and future perspective in Latvia and Europe.
In the first part of the event, foreign experts such as Pieter de Jong (Wetsus, European Center of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology), Aoife Kyne (Irish Water) and Andrea Roskosch (German Federal Environment Agency) gave a presentation on the coming funding possibilities, and the local strategies for sewage sludge utilization (screenshots from presentation title slides in Figure 1-3). The presentations of foreign experts ended with a Q&A session, in which topics of interest to industry and science were identified concerning financing, public information and technological possibilities of sewage sludge treatment.
Figure 1 Title slide of Pieter de Jong presentation:
Figure 2 Title slide of Aoife Kyne presentation:
Figure 3 Title slide of Andrea Roskosch presentation:
The second part of the event was devoted to the hands-on workshop to map out the perspective timeline for sector development. It began with presentations (Figure 4) by Sandis Dejus (Latvian water and wastewater work association) on the review of the situation in Latvia regarding the management of sewage sludge in Latvia and the processes that characterize a circular approach to the wastewater sludge treatment according to the processes shown in Figure 5. These presentations were followed by work in two parallel working groups, which discussed the challenges of sludge application from two different perspectives. One group represented the stakeholders from agriculture and forestry sector, and the second – stakeholders dealing with the sludge application in an urban environment.
Figure 4 Title slide of Sandis Dejus presentation:
Figure 5 Circular Economy Diagram by Ellen mcArthur Foundation:
By the end of the event the groups came to a shared vision – In 2030, at least 80% of the amount of sewage sludge in Latvia could be recycled following the principles of the circular economy, using it for the needs of agriculture, forestry and urban landscaping and at the same time not posing a threat to the environment and human health.
The goal is realistic provided that the process of change is appropriately monitored and carried out in collaboration between scientists, industry, and policymakers. The discussions were significant because it allowed to map out the self-assessment of each of the stakeholders’ perceived impact and importance to the development of the solutions to the challenges. Furthermore, it was possible to identify many important milestones to be achieved in the timeframe until the year 2030 that included, e.g. policy perspective, human resource development, building the critical mass of the sector, widening the international collaboration.
To conclude, projects like “iWatermap” can help to accelerate the development of specific sectors. In this case, the water technology sector. The support that the project funding gives, helps to empower the agents that drive the changes. The challenge, however, remains, how to ensure the development and the support sustainably.