World Water Day – Celebrating the importance and vulnerability of the world’s water supplies

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Trilateral Research

Date: 20 March 2021

This Monday 22 March, we are proud to celebrate World Water Day.

This is an important day that highlights issues of water security and environmental justice throughout the world. World Water Day also acts to demonstrate how indispensable water is as a resource for society and the planet.

The importance of water demonstrates its vulnerability, due to its non-substitutable nature and its reach into all aspects of our lives from drinking water, environmental integrity, sanitation, energy production, and even transport. As we chart the voluminous threats that the world’s water supplies face, we must acknowledge our responsibility as custodians for its well-being and responsible use.

The aqua3S project has been developed to ensure the protection of water supplies and those reliant on its use. The project, made of a diverse interdisciplinary consortium consisting of partners from across Europe and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, combines novel technologies in water safety and security. In doing so it will standardise existing sensor technologies completed by state-of-the-art detection mechanisms.

The system will be used to detect anomalies in water supply networks, such as contamination as well as harm caused by deliberate attacks and natural disaster.

By deploying sensor networks in water supply networks and sources, supported by complex sensors for enhanced detection water service providers will be able to identify harms like pollutants even before they manifest. Moreover, the system will utilise Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and satellite imagery to visually detect oil spills, for instance. The system will also analyse public citizen-generated social media posts on poor water quality, introducing a bottom-up approach which raises social awareness and also promotes interactive knowledge sharing.

Beyond the immediate advantages that these solutions can bring, aqua3S is also concerned with the ethical, legal, privacy and data protection issues that arise within the project.

Trilateral Research’s primary role within aqua3S is to provide expert guidance on these issues in order to ensure responsible research and project outputs that respect privacy, ethical and social considerations. This includes ensuring that privacy-by-design approaches are adopted, that disaggregated understandings of communities are adopted, that marginalised and vulnerable communities’ concerns are included within solutions and that individuals’ rights are not interfered with.

Perhaps the ongoing coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the precarity of our communities. When one or two pillars are removed, the impacts reverberate, and harms may course throughout our societies. This is no less the case in the water sector. Building our resilience and responses to water insecurity are essential measures, particularly where water is under increasing threat. This must be done in an ethical and rights-respecting manner that ensures that the benefits of water security are distributed equitably across communities as a whole.

Read more about our work in the aqua3s project.

For more information about this research area, contact our team.

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