Ladies and gentlemen, we finally got to the epilogue of this incredible eye-opening journey through the planets of innovation that are being explored by the H2020-funded projects.

To end with a bang, we decided to conclude the session by addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time: the management of water in remote areas of the Mediterranean territories. Because of water scarcity, the Mediterranean Regions face significant challenges connected to the presence of dry zones, problematic farming practices and the intensity of tourism. Today, thanks to HYDROUSA and PROJECT Ô, the water value chain find some reliefs.

Zooming into HYDROUSA:

Traditional techniques like local crops and natural irrigation systems, coupled with modern ICT technology and online monitoring, represent the winning combination that will lead HYDROUSA towards the achievement of their long-term goal: revolutionising the water value chain through circularity. Serving as places for experimentation, 3 mediterranean islands will receive the privilege to see the technology put into practice: Lesbos, Tinos and Mykonos.

More precisely, in Lesbos, a richagroforestry ecosystem will be implemented, meaning that domestic sewage will undergo a specific treatment that would turn it into methane serving as fuel, sludge serving as innovative compost cultivator and treated water meant to irrigate fields and forests. In Mykonos, a rainwater harvesting system will allow for oregano irrigation in dry hills in order to produce essential oils. Rainwater from house rooftops will be also collected and used for domestic use, while recharged groundwater sources will be directed to irrigate lavenderfields. In Tinos, an innovative nature-based desalination system will mimic the mangrove plants’ behaviour to produce edible salt and irrigate tropical fruit greenhouses. Eventually, an eco-tourism facility will be upgraded and coupled with new circular applications to create self-sufficiency in terms of resource production.

The project itself, from the very first stage, takes into account the replication potential, in line with the ambitious goal of extending the solutions to 26 more islands and coastal areas in Mexico, France, Australia and Egypt. After that, the more, the better.

Zooming into PROJECT Ô:

Project Ô also circulates around water, just like the path they want to create for regenerating such resource. The life of the whole planet depends on the 1.4 billion km3 of the earth water stock and its regenerative capacity is being threatened by human exploitation for industrial processes and self-sustainment. Adopting a circular economy lens while prompting a participative approach in the decision-making process is the key to safeguard water’s regenerative capacity, thanks to a smart use of the resource able to stand the climate challenge. Project Ô emphasises the potential of designing local, small loops of water management that can alleviate the pressures associated with the resource use, and keep it to the right amount needed.

With this goal in mind, the project members will make use of innovative technologies to drive a symbiotic and integrated use of water, in the attempt of meeting the needs of different water users through their own self engagement in the project-related activities. More in detail, the project aims to provide stakeholders with a toolkit that would enable them to plan the use of water according to the amount they need, with a view to saving significant energy and water use, thus reducing drastically the amount of resources released.

Fit for purpose is the Project Ô’s main slogan, as the ultimate goal is encouraging communities and SMEs to follow virtuous practices that lead them to make conscious use of our precious resource. The possibility of devising fit-for-purpose practices on a small scale, is fundamental to avoid an excessive use of water that a centralised large facility is most likely to trigger. In fact, the shift from a centralised water management to a customised one prevents water from overstressing in light of the excessive yet unnecessary use that is usually subject to. The customisation potential will be exploited in four different sites: Puglia (Italy), Almendralejo (Spain), Omis (Croatia), and Eilat (Israel).

Flexibility as a top priority  

As stated by our speakers, Dr. Simos Malamis (HYDROUSA) and Dr. Alessandra Bianco Prevot (PROJECT Ô), currently the water reuse regulation in Europe is very fragmented. This means that, despite the existence of minimum water quality requirements for agriculture, there are different regulations governing its reuse that prevent countries from adopting a one-size-for-all solution. What follows is that for the sake of the transferability and replicability potential, key to conquer an increasingly large market share, taking into account this fragmented legal framework in the design of the new solutions is fundamental for the success of the whole innovation process. Flexibility has to be a top priority aspect.

Thanks to the mission of both projects, the supply side is being taken care of. What about the demand?

First of all, the Mediterranean area’s prime consumer comes from agriculture. Thanks to the smart intervention, the farmers will be able to regulate the amount of water they need, based on parametres related to weather forecasts, soil conditions, and so on. By artificially regulating the water supply, both projects are indirectly causing the demand to shrink, thus triggering a subsequent reduction in water consumption. Secondly, informative campaigns are being carried out to raise awareness about the importance of water saving for domestic, industrial and touristic use. Finally, water management planning is pushing institutions to be more reflective on how to optimize the demand for the sake of water preservation, which inevitably causes people to think about how much of water they can save, and the beneficial consequences that can arise if they actually do it.

Thank you all for staying with us throughout this incredible journey ! See you in September for another amazing session!