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Constructing the future of water infrastructures: lessons from the cases of water saving and eco- sanitation Bas van Vliet, Environmental Policy Group.

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Presentation on theme: "Constructing the future of water infrastructures: lessons from the cases of water saving and eco- sanitation Bas van Vliet, Environmental Policy Group."— Presentation transcript:

1 Constructing the future of water infrastructures: lessons from the cases of water saving and eco- sanitation Bas van Vliet, Environmental Policy Group Wageningen University

2 Outline Questioning the current attempts of shaping future water systems Representations of water infrastructures Classifying Innovation in water infrastructures The case of Eco sanitation The future of innovation in water infrastructures Ways forward in social scientific research

3 Questioning the change in water infrastructures How to change such large technical systems? Which are based on huge technical infrastructural networks being built from the late 19 th century on… With vested public (public health, national security)… …and private (water industry) interests. With linkages to intimate aspects of everyday life (toilet practices) and cultural robust standards of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience

4 Current Innovation programmes Being based on technological variation and selection… But who exactly varies and who selects? What is the dividing line in between? …and experimentation that should lead to regime changes… As yet not clear how to design pilots as to make them successful …Many subsidy programmes focus on technological solutions… …and are geared towards endless experimentation

5 Lineair flow scheme Down streamUpstream Water supply system Waste water system Abstraction-purification-storage-supply- consumption - discharge-transport- treatment- drainage-reuse Purification Consumption

6 Closed Loop System

7 Sociotechnical approaches Factor 10 Factor 5 Factor 2 New system 20 years Improvement in environmental efficiency Factor 10 Factor 5 New system 20 years Improvement in environmental efficiency Time horizon Predevelopment Take off Acceleration Consolidation Macro level (landscape) Meso level (regimes) Micro level (niches)

8 Classifying Innovation in water infrastructures Four Dichotomies and one Mixture Upstream / Downstream Incremental / Radical Grass root / Top-down initiatives Technical / social Modernised Mixtures

9 Upstream / downstream (or supply / demand side) Upstream: new abstraction and purification methods (extraction from river shores, UV), wastewater treatment by nano membranes Downstream: household water, water saving household devices, composting toilets, combined billing systems

10 Incremental or radical innovations Incremental change within existing technological paradigm: storm water control, water saving showers, up-scaling sewerage and treatment Radical change: break away from existing regimes: dry toilets, distribution of use water, (& bottled drinking water), on-site rain water recovery as source for drinking water.

11 Grass-root / Top-Down Grass root: indebted to Appropriate Technology and Schumacher movement: citizen-initiatives, mostly with de-centralized, off-grid, autonomous and easy applicable and manageable solutions. Top-down: water companies, research institutes or government initiatives, mostly centralized, high tech solutions, or holistic concepts such as ‘decentralized sanitation and reuse’

12 Technical / Social innovations Technical: focus on the hardware, i.e. nano membrane filtration Social: focus on ‘software’ new systems of cost recovery and billing for water services

13 Modernised Mixtures High-tech next to low-tech solutions in one system Socio-technical approach Integrated into the mainstream built-environment Living up to present demands of high Comfort, cleanliness and convenience levels/ compatible with ‘modern life (styles)’ Developed by (utility) companies/ providers in creative dialogue with end-users as co-producing civilians

14 Small is Beautiful Large is Conventional Modernised Mixtures

15 Example Eco sanitation Group of environmental technologists, specialists in on- site systems of waste water treatment. Prominent critics of sewer systems since the early 1970s While on-site eco-sanitation systems have been successfully implemented in many developing countries, diffusion in Europe is lagging behind Within project: chance to apply and test such technologies in real settings

16 Closed Loop System

17 Ecosan options Liernur system

18 Story Line Technology Developers Ecosanitation Sewer systems are wasting water, energy, nutrients and building matarials Eco-sanitation keeps waste concentrated, which enables more efficient treatment, and produces energy (methane) It is simple and proven technology

19 Some peculiarities The sewer system is a dominating technological system and is almost everywhere available Users do not want to be bothered (again) on how their feces and urine are being treated For which problem is Eco-sanitation a solution? Is it the water saving and do we have a lack of water? Is it the reuse of nutrients and is there a lack of them in Dutch agriculture? Is it the vulnerability of the current sewer system? Then how robust is on-site eco-sanitation? Is it the high costs of sewer system maintenance? Then can eco-sanitation be cheaper?

20 Social Scientific Story Line Ecosanitation Implementation of Eco-sanitation encompasses a socio-technical transition in sanitation, water supply and even in agriculture The institutional & social & cultural robustness of sanitation practices seems to be highly underestimated Only technical and environmental arguments will not sell this technology to the public

21 Multi-level change is not a one-way road! Macro level (landscape) Meso level (regimes) Micro level (niches)

22 Ways forward in transitions in water infrastructures Redesign niche developments: Experiment not only with technologies but with different modes of institutional organization along the whole chain Take into account diverse problem definitions Raised at the upstream (fertiliser industry, agriculture) and at the down stream level (citizen-consumers) Reframe “closed loop” rhetoric into more fashionable topics: renewable energy, water stress, or standards of comfort, cleanliness and convenience

23 Ways forward in Social scientific research In stead of traditional studies on ‘acceptation’ or ‘non- technical barriers’: Rethinking niche management, and innovation programmes that are based on technical variation and selection by small networks of techno-scientists (STS approach). Who and what constitutes the ‘variation environment’? How can ‘’selection environments’’ be broadened? Studying the co-evolution of technology, institutions, cultural standards and social practices in domains of everyday life to obtain a reference to study experiments and innovation at large (social practices approach, Spaargaren et al) To reveal today’s built-in futures of water infrastructures

24 Thank You


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