The 2018 edition of Watec Italy, the event for water professionals, has drawn to a close in Cremona. Four days of exhibitions, conferences and encounters spent talking about governance and high technology applied to managing water resources
The secret of Watec Italy? It brings everyone working with water together in one place: politicians, administrators, technicians, researchers and operators.
The four-day event turned Cremona into the capital of European water, where people gathered to talk about governance and technology, two different aspects with a single goal: to optimise the use of water resources, reduce waste and find strategies to ensure this indispensable element, essential to the planet’s development, will always be on tap worldwide.
The key moment was a conference with the participation of the principal European public water managers, as well as some of the leading international experts engaged in the development of technologies to optimise water use and treatment for agriculture, industry and civil uses.
This successful collaboration was the work of the Israeli Keenes Exhibitions and CremonaFiere, a partner in Watec Italy 2018, an event that devoted great space to issues affecting sustainable agriculture.
No time to lose
“By 2050 there will be a 55% increase in demand for water worldwide, while already by 2025 two-thirds of the earth’s population will live in areas where water resources will be in short supply.” In his speech to the conference, the former Minister of the Environment Corrado Clini repeatedly stressed the importance of moving towards a circular economy, with its fulcrum in sustainable agriculture. A goal “that needs appropriate investment policies,” emphasised Clini, “as the Common Agricultural Policy is also seeking to do with its measures for greening, an interesting tool for virtuous soil management and reducing water consumption.”
This is a global challenge, needing to be based on equally efficient and respectful water technologies, such as fertigation. This technique invented in Israel some 60 years ago makes desert areas or those with minimally available water resources cultivable. “We have created a system that aims at irrigation of the plant and not of the ground,” explained Naty Barak, chief sustainability officer at Netafim, “a method that involves curbing consumption without affecting crop productivity. The decrease in water resources is an established fact. In the world, only 20% of the land is irrigated today, and of this percentage 70% is irrigated by flow, while only 30% benefits from the drip system.”
The margins for improvement? Endless. Provided the fight against waste becomes a goal shared at every level, because rational and efficient water consumption is impossible unless we reduce losses.
Investing in technology
At Watec Italy, organizations such as A2A, engaged in innovative projects, presented hi-tech systems for identifying losses in the distribution network. Because today it is possible to reduce waste or reuse agricultural wastewater, as is done at Nosedo, in the province of Milan. ”Every day,” Francesca Pizza pointed out in Cremona, “our plant produces 400,000 m3 of purified and treated water that can be used in agriculture, with a view to achieving total sustainability.”
The risk? Being left without water resources and forced to desalinate seawater. This is done in Israel, which has gained considerable experience in this field. This was mentioned at Watec Italy by Ezra Shai, director of Water Quality Unit Sources of the Israel National Water Company.
Fortunately this scenario is still remote in Europe, but there still has to be a serious concern for efficient distribution. This was the theme of Claudio Bodini, president of Padania Acque, the single operator of integrated water services in the Province of Cremona, whose organisation serves 116 municipalities with over 150 clients. “Access to water, transparency of data and information for citizens are the cornerstones of our work,” said Bodini. “They make our company a local excellence, above all by the trust the citizens invest in us.”
The new drinking water directive
The centrality of Watec Italy was also highlighted by the participation in the conference of Aqua Publica Europea (APE). The association brings together some 60 public water service operators and reaches the homes of 70 million citizens every day.
At the centre of the debate, as highlighted by Célia Blauel, APE’s president and Deputy Mayor of Paris, is the new drinking water Directive. “The current debate in Brussels,” she explained, “is very important. We are committed to achieving a balance between all the objectives at stake. This approach is not easy, but necessary, since the Directive will be the basis for managing and safeguarding water resources in the coming years.”
The stakes are enormous. Veronica Manfredi, head of the Directorate General for the Environment at the European Commission in Brussels, summed up the challenge in a few telling figures. According to the OECD, by 2100 the earth is likely to record a rise in temperature of 1.5 degrees and a rise in sea level of 10 cm. Moreover, by 2050 the demand for water globally will increase by 55%. “This is a positive sign that indicates global development,” Veronica Manfredi told Watec Italy. “But at the same time it means that more resources are needed to meet this demand. We have to raise quality standards further, with a view to sustainability and accessibility.”
We are experiencing a delicate moment. But Alessandro Russo, APE’s vice-president, rejoices because “finally the political world is talking about water again. And Aqua Publica Europea is ready to take up this challenge, focusing on the need to increase investment, clearly explaining the costs to be borne by citizens and tackling the theme of water as the safeguard of the territory.”
The future won’t wait
Not to forget the importance of training young people to respect an increasingly rare and irreplaceable asset, as stressed by Amnon Shefi, of Hi-Teach and the Rotary Hands Across Water Education Program. This is an interesting project, adopted by 70 Israeli schools and aimed at fostering students’ knowledge of the need for a conscious and responsible use of water.
Its creators now want to export the project abroad, because, as Shefi stressed, “If water is a right and above all a common good, it is essential for the younger generations to feel immediately responsible for its proper management.”
A clear message: to be discussed further at the next edition of Watec Italy.