Fraunhofer Institute for
Systems and Innovation Research ISI
Project Start NAUWA: Solutions for Sustainable Water Infrastructure Systems
Press Release 05/08/2009
Climatic as well as demographic change require new water infrastructure systems. At the same time technical progress makes innovative solutions possible. The practice-oriented research project NAUWA (Sustainable development of urban water infrastructures under greatly changing framework conditions), which started in spring 2009 with the active participation of four North Rhine-Westphalian (NRW) communities, examines the resulting questions. The project is conducted by scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI in collaboration with the Kommunal- und Abwasserberatung (communal and waste water consultancy) NRW as well as the Emschergenossenschaft/Lippeverband (regional water authority). Aim of the project is to point out options for action to enable the towns to adapt their existing water infrastructure systems to the changed and future framework conditions.
Urban water infrastructures include both the municipal water supply and also dealing with waste water and rain water. Changes in various framework conditions as well as the guiding principle of a sustainable development are new challenges for the communities regarding the technical design of the process and also regarding the financing of water-related services.
Using the scenario method, the scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, together with their project partners, develop exemplary strategic options for the four very different towns Gelsenkirchen, Lünen, Velbert and Wachtberg. These options show how the towns can re-structure their existing water infrastructure systems, both in the long term and sustainably, under changing conditions. Based on scenarios to be developed in the project, strategic action plans will be drafted for specific implementation for each town. The results and experiences from the four case studies will be summarized in a manual. This manual can assist other interested municipalities in future to develop individual problem-solving approaches for a future-compliant re-structuring of their water infrastructure systems.
Among the framework conditions to be examined within the project are the impacts of climate change, which are already becoming apparent in Germany: for example, changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of precipitation lead to temporary and in places higher rainfall as well as longer dry periods. In addition, the demographic change in the population must be taken into consideration. On the one hand, the population is declining, which leads to a lower population density, on the other hand, people are growing older with possible implications for the composition of waste water, for instance due to the increasing use of medicines. In addition, in future new water protection objectives can induce additional ecological requirements for water infrastructure systems. The innovative starting point in this project is the cross-disciplinary and forward-looking approach to the new challenges: "In order to take these into account and to provide a long-term, viable solution, we are pursuing a comprehensive systems approach and integrating all stakeholders in the project", states Dr. Harald Hiessl, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI.
The processes resulting from the changing framework conditions are dynamic, and considered regionally will run in part very different courses. By contrast, water infrastructure systems are very inflexible: supply networks and technical plants have very long service life of partly 50 to 100 years and involve high investments. Therefore in the NAUWA project it will be investigated, inter alia, whether existing systems can still be operated economically for the length of their technically possible service life and which specifically local aspects must be taken into consideration in the case of new investments.
NAUWA is sponsored by the WestLB-Stiftung Zukunft NRW. Fraunhofer ISI carried out the project in collaboration with the Kommunal- und Abwasserberatung NRW GmbH (Düsseldorf), the Emschergenossenschaft/Lippeverband (Essen) and the relevant actors from the four towns of Gelsenkirchen, Lünen, Velbert und Wachtberg in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Relevant to industry, relevant to society – the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI investigates how technical and organizational innovations shape industry and society today and in the future. A trademark of the systemic approach is the integration of research disciplines and the construction of a network for innovations, together with clients and interested parties. With its expertise, experience and reports, ISI as one of the application-oriented research institutes in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft makes a contribution towards strengthening European competitiveness. For this reason, politicians, associations and enterprises utilize Fraunhofer ISI as a foresighted and neutral intellectual mastermind able to convey visions for decisions.