30 June 2022

Bridging the gap on sustainable water management in the region

Written by Luca Arfini

A hub for solutions and a platform for exchange on efficient water management. Read about BSR Water: a successful Interreg project platform that managed to bring water management in the Baltic Sea region to a higher level. All of this was possible thanks to cooperation across borders among 9 countries in our region.

A circular economy approach entails more sustainable management of raw materials and waste; including water. Therefore, sustainable water management is a crucial part of the circular economy and the transition towards a greener Baltic Sea region. One of the possible ways to make the water and wastewater sector more circular is by adapting the already existing tools and solutions to the specific conditions of this sector.

Agnieszka Ilola, BSR Water project manager

“We wanted to try to make an even bigger push for the wastewater sector to be circular. We knew that there were many solutions and technologies concerning wastewater that could be utilised even better in the future. We decided to focus more on recovering nutrients, especially phosphorus, as this has the biggest potential for recovery in an environmentally friendly way. We also wanted to build on existing solutions in the area of smart management of storm waters to make cities more climate-resilient.”

Connecting water sector experts across the Baltic Sea region

BSR Water has brought together experts from diverse transnational cooperation projects that generated solutions in various fields: from smart nutrient management and sludge handling, through stormwater management, domestic and industrial wastewater treatment, ending up with manure management, and energy efficiency.

The overall number of involved projects was seven: IWAMA, Manure Standards, Village Waters, BEST funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Region, Reviving Baltic Resilience funded by Interreg South Baltic, iWater funded by Interreg Central Baltic, and CliPLivE funded by European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI-CBC).

Agnieszka Ilola, BSR Water project manager

Projects were certainly seen as an important tool for transnational exchange and the understanding of the needs of the wastewater treatment sector, but projects have also a very limited scope and lifetime. So, the possibility of connecting and sharing ideas on a more regular basis was missing. We needed something more long-lasting than a single project!  That was the idea behind the BSR Water platform and its online tool dialogue, the Baltic Smart Water Hub.”

The Hub, one of the main platform’s achievements, is a practical online tool for networking and exchange of concrete solutions from the water sector for all organisations interested in continuously improving their performance. The Hub covers four pillars: fresh water, sea water, storm water and wastewater. Currently, there are 115 available resources (good practices, technical solutions, and tools). These resources help municipalities and water operators to manage fresh, sea, storm, and wastewater more efficiently and in a sustainable way. They range from infrastructural investments, management processes, citizen-engaging campaigns, and stakeholder cooperation measures.

The quality control of the materials and resources uploaded in the Hub is carried out by 25 water experts from research, local authorities, and businesses, who also share new content and developments in the water sector.

Agnieszka Ilola, BSR Water project manager

“All the very practical outcomes like pilots or concrete tools from our projects are published in the Hub and are displayed in a unified format and easy to access way so that they are available for the whole region.”

Stimulating regional policy dialogue on sustainable water management

Copyright: Mariia Andreeva

The outcomes of the projects part of the BSR Water platform were also used in regional policy and recommendations on stormwater management, nutrient recycling and hazardous substances.

For instance, the accumulated knowledge of these projects guided the revision of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) Recommendation 23/5 related to stormwater management.

Agnieszka Ilola, BSR Water project manager

“It was a very successful result! We are definitely very proud of our contribution to the update of HELCOM recommendation on urban stormwater management. This recommendation promotes sustainable solutions for preventing the contamination of the aquatic environment including hazardous substances, nutrients, microbial microplastics, and increasing resilience to climate change. When updating it, we had the opportunity to actually use the experience of all seven contributing projects.”

In the publication “Palette of Solutions for Nutrient Recycling in the Baltic Sea Region“, BSR Water explored feasible solutions for nutrients and phosphorus recovery primarily from wastewater and sludge in the region. The palette of solutions guides the review of the different options already tested in larger scales and the planning of national phosphorus recovery strategies, key technologies and potential applications by authorities, local practitioners and companies. HELCOM has later published the document as an input into the developing Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy.

Central to the development of this document was the organisation of several workshops.

Mariia Andreeva, BSR Water communication manager

“We planned workshops that were specifically focusing on looking at the project outputs, lessons learned and trying to transfer them into very concrete policy messages. By doing this, we tried to bring not only experts from one sector but to work across the different fields. For example, we had one of the workshops together with another platform funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Region, SUMANU platform, which was about nutrients recycling from wastewater and agriculture. The diverse expertise and the collaboration were key to developing policy briefs on nutrient recycling.”

What’s next?

The work of BSR Water didn’t stop with the end of the implementation period and its achievements will keep being alive and relevant in the years to come.

Mariia Andreeva, BSR Water communication manager

“The durability of the results was one of the key factors that we considered in our platform work, we wanted to ensure that what we achieved would have stayed after the platform ended its work. For instance, the Hub is still fully operational and will remain so also in the future. We will continue promoting it and encouraging cities across the Baltic Sea to share their local achievements in the Hub. Moreover, external experts who are involved in the revision of the quality of the cases in the Hub will also remain active. We will keep on working and discussing with them.”

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