NICEST is motivated by the need for a green approach to water treatment. In fact, the water sector is a key one where digital innovation plays a key role looking forward to the European Green Deal challenge. The European Green Deal was stated as one of the six ambitions/objectives for Europe described by Ursula von der Leyen in 2019. The increase in global temperature, the depletion of natural resources and continued biodiversity loss, undermine our security and prosperity. The Water Sector is at the core of the environmental debate. Water is, quite simply, the most essential natural resource on the planet. Global water challenges affecting water resources, such as climate change, population growth, increasing urbanization and ageing infrastructure, continue to intensify. The European Green Deal is that response. It will drive us forward to climate neutrality by 2050 and at the same time focus on adaptation. The key strategy for the period 2019-2024 is and will be the Twin Transition to a green and digital economy firmly grounded in the objectives of the European Green Deal. No attempt to establish a Green Economy can be successful if it does not involve the water sector in all its facets. An important advance towards such progress faithfully reflects the second factor of the Twin Transition: Digitalization.
Digital monitoring solutions can help to optimise the management and control of wastewater treatment plants, which may result in higher degrees of energy efficiency as well reductions in chemicals used and carbon or other gas emissions. Employing such tools, digital process information can be used to simulate possible configurations of a plant for varying design parameters (e.g. inflow conditions) in order to identify the optimal configuration of wastewater management and reuse systems at different scales. With regards to data reporting processes, digital solutions can provide valuable input, with regards, for example, to water quality monitoring designed to support the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Green innovative technology has been improving the way we treat water so that the environmental footprint left by wastewater treatment plants is smaller and less impactful. With automation and innovation moving forward, we can continue to expand on these eco-friendly technologies to make wastewater treatment greener.
Methods do exist to protect water resources and achieve sustainability, but they need to be prudently selected, implemented and supported by knowledgeable people (with appropriate scientific and technical expertise) involved in all related activities, i.e. in public and commercial providers of services, technology, and equipment, in regulatory authorities, and in educational institutions. With the support and guidance of such experts, Governments and other authorities can take well-planned steps to product robust and efficient infrastructure. There is a need for well-educated professionals with appropriate skills and competences able to fulfill the current demands in the sector.
Need for qualified professionals
Like many other industries, water and wastewater treatment plants also face the problem of a staffing shortage. Efficient and productive workers that are skilled in the business are necessary to properly manage water systems. But there’s aren’t a sufficient number of employees to go around. Automation may be a potential solution to this shortage. Not only will it fill in the gaps of needed employment but it will also put less stress on existing workers. The ongoing reviewing/re-structuring process of higher education programmes in order to address the expectations for the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), provides the opportunity to promote new types and levels of learning new technologies and practices in and through pan-European collaboration. Currently, there is no programme offered in Europe similar to the one being proposed, nor to modern control systems technology nor with its application to the operation of water systems. The prospective master degree will fulfil the demand for well-qualified personnel required with an enhanced capability for solving many of the water supply problems foreseen in the next 20 years.