A European research project led by the Environmental and Energy Management Research Unit of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece, is developing complex indicators to measure the impact of eco-innovative technologies on ecosystems.
The EcoWater project, says coordinator Professor Dionysis Assimacopoulos of NTUA, will fill a gap in current frameworks for assessing the impact of technologies. It will be a “scientific approach that allows us to assess technological innovations that could reduce environmental impacts on the meso-level, and the economic performance of those technologies,” he says.
The meso-level means the system level, as compared to the micro level (for example, a factory or company), or the macro-level (for example, a country). EcoWater is developing indicators for agricultural water systems, urban water systems, and for use of water by four industrial sectors: cars, the dairy industry, textiles and power generation.
The analysis done by the project goes beyond environmental footprinting, or beyond environmental management tools such as ISO 14000, which deal with specific processes or activities. The framework being developed by EcoWater will take an holistic view, allowing the impact of environmental technologies on whole systems to be assessed. “We need to take into account all the impacts, from the start up to the end point in our system. We estimate not only the environmental impact, but we also try to estimate the added value that is produced because of the water use,” Assimacopoulos says.
The project runs until October 2014. It will develop a series of case studies demonstrating the use of meso-level indicators. It will for example study the agricultural irrigation system of Sinistra Ofanto in south-east Italy, and urban water use in Sofia, Bulgaria, where assessments will be done of the economic and environmental impacts of a range of technologies, including pumping systems, materials used in water pipes and wastewater treatment technologies.
In each case the project will build up a “total view of how the system behaves,” Assimacopoulos says. The indicators will enable a better understanding of the best points within the system for intervention with environmental technologies and, by evaluating the costs and benefits, will allow for better allocation of costs to to parties involved in water systems. The project should help decision-makers decide which technologies to choose to reduce the pressure on ecosystems. “We aim to make policy recommendations for technology uptake mechanisms,” Assimacopoulos says.
EcoWater project facts
Duration: November 2011 to October 2014
Partners: 10 project partners from 9 countries, coordinated by the National Technical University of Athens (full list of partners at http://environ.chemeng.ntua.gr/ecoWater/Default.aspx?t=163).
Funding: €3,037,976 including €2,499,489 from the 7th Framework Programme