A major European Union initiative to promote innovation in the water sector has promised to adopt its strategic implementation plan by the end of the year, with its operational phase to start in early 2013. The European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIPW) held its kick-off meeting in Brussels on 4 September.
The EIPW was established by the European Commission in May 2012, and endorsed by EU member state environment ministers at the Environment Council of 11 June. In their post-Council communiqué, the ministers backed the Commission's idea that the EIPW should speed up the adoption of new water-related technologies and management approaches by “break[ing] down barriers to innovation and facilitat[ing] the development of innovative solutions in the fields of water management”. The EIPW is one of a number of similar platforms started as part of the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative for an Innovation Union.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, in a speech at the Water Innovation Europe Conference in May, said the EIPW would take “a 'problem-oriented' approach” and would “define the key challenges for which we will need innovative solutions”. The partnership will address threats to both EU water quality and quantity. The incidence and likelihood of floods, water scarcity and drought have increased because of climate change and other environmental threats, while insufficient water quality and sanitation problems potentially threaten public health and biodiversity.
The EIPW's broad objectives are:
The EIPW kick-off meeting agreed that these goals could best be pursued by working on eight priorities. Broad priorities areas for action are the links between water management and energy; water governance; financing for innovation; resource-efficient urban water supply and wastewater treatment; measures to balance supply and demand; integration of rural water management and land-use planning; water supply and sanitation for small rural communities; and industrial water management good practice. A Task Force will further define the scope of these priority areas of action, based on a number of criteria, such as the broad innovation potential of measures, their attractiveness for investors, and the potential for making an impact on public awareness..
The EIPW strategic implementation plan, which will be drafted by the end of November and adopted by the group at its next meeting on 18 December, will address actions and assessment criteria for the priorities, as well as outline the governance structure for the implementation.
The EIPW kick-off meeting brought together Commissioner Potocnik with ministerial level representatives from a number of EU countries, the European Investment Bank, other public officials, water company executives, non-profit groups, and major water users, such as chemicals and paper companies.
Once the EIPW strategic implementation plan has been drawn up, the operational phase will start from early 2013.