Issue 83, February 2017
bullet Global Water Sustainability
bullet Human Rights to Water and Sanitation
bullet The MoMo Project: Integrated Water Resource Management in Mongolia
bullet The Emscher Conversion Project
bullet Innovation: Wasser 3.0 - Clean Water Worldwide
Global Water Sustainability
A rapidly growing world population, environmental pollution, and climate change are threatening the availability of water, one of the most important natural resources. Water is not only essential for drinking, but also for agricultural production, energy generation, and manufacturing. In January 2016, Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6), ensuring access to water and sanitation for all by 2030, officially came into operation.  At present, 40 percent of the global population is affected by the scarcity of clean fresh water, and at least 1.8 billion people are using water from fecally contaminated sources.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is addressing this issue by funding institutions and initiatives in countries in the Middle East as well as North and Sub-Saharan Africa. In order to successfully implement water and sanitation projects on the ground, GIZ is bringing together key stakeholders, such as development organizations, industry representatives, communities, and farmers.

SFD is an assessment tool that was developed by consultants commissioned by the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program in 2013, which has been further developed by a group of institutions from the UK, India, Switzerland, and the SFD Promotion Initiative in Germany with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is a visual representation of excreta flows, which summarizes and presents what happens to excreta in urban areas, bringing people together in coordinated dialogue around sanitation. Wasser 3.0, a German research and development project, is focused on the sustainable removal of anthropogenic stressors from water, which will soon be implemented in developing countries.

To learn more about this global challenge, read our GCRI Blog entry, Thinking About Drinking - The Thirst for Sustainable Water Management.

On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Nevertheless, over two billion people worldwide lack access to a toilet. It is not easy to grasp what this means in terms of environmental pollution, public health risks, demand for infrastructure, and human dignity. Quantifying managed excreta is not a complicated task when conveyance and treatment facilities exist. The challenge lies in understanding what happens to the unmanaged excreta in a city or town.

Excreta flow diagrams, also known as Shit Flow Diagrams (SFDs) summarize and present what happens to excreta in urban areas. An SFD is a visual representation of excreta flows. Used as an advocacy and decision support tool, the SFD has been bringing people together in coordinated dialogue around sanitation. It provides a common language to discuss sanitation in cities and helps build linkages to other sectors that typically do not communicate with each other.

In India, sanitation has made its way into the news, and SFDs are not only illustrating the magnitude of the challenges, but also revealing other dimensions of the problem. For many years, sanitation provision has been regarded primarily as access to toilets. More systemic thinking, anchored on sustainability principles, also takes the management of the excreta into account and shows us that providing toilets alone will not suffice.
Source & Image: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)

Mongolia is an arid country with scarce water resources. Three million people share an area of 1.5 million square kilometers with more than 55 million grazing animals. Situated in the forest-steppe of northern Mongolia, Darkhan, the second largest Mongolian city, is home to about 180,000 inhabitants, some industries, and a branch of Mongolia's technical university.

Darkhan, which is located near the outlet of the Kharaa River Basin, is the primary focus of " IWRM-MoMo," a German-Mongolian project. The project's goal is to integrate the management of the area's water resources by modeling water availability, monitoring water quality in the mining areas along its middle reaches, as well as improving water distribution and sanitation in Darkhan city.

The IWRM-MoMo project, which is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), combines intensive research with the application of innovative technical solutions. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Darkhan, which was established as a Soviet model city in 1961. Today, the Russians are gone and the rough climate with winter temperatures around negative 35 degrees Celsius has damaged much of the water infrastructure. The drinking water pipes lie five meters deep underground to prevent freezing during the winter.  When MoMo engineers arrived in 2006 some of the pipes had already been broken and the drinking water network was damaged, resulting in a significant loss of water.  The engineers were able to locate the leaks by employing the latest technology to repair selected areas of the pipeline. By avoiding these losses, drinking water consumption could be reduced by 50%.

What is more, the MoMo project has developed solutions for sanitation and wastewater treatment, e.g. prototype testing for the replacement of Darkhan's aged water treatment plant as well as the establishment of decentralized sewage works in the countryside.
Source: Dr. Martin Pfeiffer, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UFZ)

Image: André Künzelmann, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ 


The construction of an underground sewer in the Ruhr region was not possible for a long time due to the subsidence of the soil caused by mining. As a result, the Emscher, a central river of the Ruhr region and its tributaries were utilized as open wastewater streams. The Emschergenossenschaft, which was founded in 1899, has been providing solutions to this problem through wastewater treatment and disposal as well as flood protection. However, the situation changed in the early 1990s as mining moved from the Ruhr region to northern Germany. As a result, subsidence was no longer a problem and this made it possible to build an underground sewer.

The Emschergenossenschaft has been in charge of the Emscher River conversion since 1992. Every waterway receives an underground sewer through which wastewater is diverted to the treatment plants. As a result, the streams above ground are free of wastewater and subsequently converted to a nearly natural form; the concrete floors are being removed, the embankments widened and in time, the streams will become more versatile. Wherever space permits, the rivers, which had been straightened, will once again have a meandering flow.

Over a period of almost 30 years, the Emscher-genossenschaft will have invested approximately 5.266 billion euros into this project. Roughly 330 of the 400 kilometers of the sewer have been installed to date, and nearly 130 of 326 kilometers of the waterways have been improved ecologically.

Internationally, there has been significant interest in the Emscher conversion project. The transfer of knowledge is important for the river managers as they receive regular visits from international experts who are interested in learning about the project.

Source: Emschergenossenschaft

Image: Rupert Oberhäuser

Innovation Interview with Dr. Mareike Braeckevelt, Research Coordinator at the Center for Advanced Water Research (CAWR) at the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD)
Before Dr. Mareike Braeckevelt became the research coordinator at CAWR, she conducted research for Water4Crops, one of the largest existing Euro-India collaborative projects addressing the worldwide issue of water and wastewater reuse and management. As a part of the DAAD project PROCOL, she provided knowledge transfer for the implementation of wetland treatment systems for wastewater treatment in Colombia.

Dr. Braeckevelt is the research coordinator at CAWR, which brings together the water competences of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ and the Technische Universität Dresden. Her publications focus on ecological engineering and environmental chemistry.

In this interview with the GCRI, Dr. Braeckevelt explains the current situation for efficiently treating polluted water in Germany and Europe. She highlights the numerous challenges for sustainable urban water management in rural and urban areas and describes one of CAWR's current research projects, "Managing Water for Urban Catchments". To read the full interview, click here
Source & Image: Center for Advanced Water Research (CAWR)

BionaticInnovation: Wasser 3.0 - Clean Water Worldwide
Wasser 3.0 is a new, application-oriented R&D project, which focuses on the sustainable removal of anthropogenic stressors from water. A hybrid, silica gel-based material, StressFix is added to drinking water and wastewater to remove these stressors. This project will soon be implemented in developing countries where, in order for Wasser 3.0 to succeed, a number of factors will be taken into consideration. For example, water supply, water consumption, wastewater conditions, as well as the wastewater disposal network need to be assessed.

The groundwater remediation concept will also be addressed in order to prevent the renewed cross-contamination of treated wastewater. The gaps and deficiencies in all areas, due to multidimensional factors (technical, state and communal factors, legal factors, and others), cannot be eliminated in the short- and medium-term using conventional methods. However, with Wasser 3.0, there is a local option, upstream or downstream at the causal level, to provide a financially inexpensive and flexible solution model, which will, in the medium-term, contribute to an improvement in wastewater treatment and water quality.

Wasser 3.0 was selected as one of the 365 landmarks in the
"Germany - Land of Ideas" competition in 2016.
Source & Image: Wasser 3.0