EU-funded water research activities past, present and future were the main focus of the European Water Research Day on 8 September 2008 at the Expo Zaragoza 2008 in Spain. The event, organised by the European Commission Directorate-General for Research, was attended by more than 200 delegates. Participants included Marcelino Iglesias, President of the Regional Government of Aragon, Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research, and Cristina Garmendia, the Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation.
Since 1984, seven EU Research Framework Programmes have contributed to funding research in Europe. They have all, among other aspects, tackled the role of water in the environment and society. The research has helped to promote good water management from a technological and institutional point of view. It has also served to increase our knowledge of the water cycle, as well as our awareness of its political dimensions and of the need to protect aquatic ecosystems.
Underlining the key role played by research in protecting and managing water resources, Commissioner Potočnik said that the EU’s FP7 would provide even further support to collaborative water research. And the Commissioner called on science and research policies to make a splash: “We must push on and continue to learn how to best meet basic human needs for water and sanitation, when there will be less water to go around and more people who need it.”
The Water Research Day looked both to draw on the experience of previous water-related research and to set about identifying objectives for developing new concepts, technologies and tools - backed up by what is now a better understanding of the context and impact of global change.
As well as the addresses from Spanish and Commission representatives, the opening session of the Water Research Day programme featured presentations by Philippe Busquin, Member of the European Parliament, and Diane d'Arras of the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform.
The event went on to review the main findings and impacts of EU-funded water-related research activities. Six keynote speakers summarised previous and ongoing research activities, with a view also to identifying gaps in knowledge and future challenges for achieving sustainable solutions to water-related problems. Among the speakers was Professor Tony Allan, who just a few days before had been named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate – what might be called the Nobel Prize for Water – for his work on water issues.
Topics included integrated water resource management, governance and policy; the impact of climate change on the water cycle; water scarcity; water in the city; preventing and monitoring water pollution; and support tools for policy-making.
In the afternoon session, Commission staff outlined the water-related topics included in the present call for proposals for research projects under FP7. This was followed by a number of short presentations made by delegates willing to introduce their activities, expertise or project ideas.