C. The Way Forward
113. Going forward, key priorities for the sustainability of the WSS services are emerging at global level and for the Danube region, linked to water being a natural resource essential for life on this planet. The author team expects that the World Bank will be undertaking further analytical work on these under the DWP Phase III to include the results in a next SOS 2021 edition, including on the following:
- Water security and climate change: sustaining water services in the context of the multiple uses of water and the climate, population, and economic changes in the Danube region will require governments to adopt a water security approach in a context of climate change. Water security is understood as the overarching goal of sustaining and leveraging water resources within the means of the basins, delivering water services to meet the needs of communities and economies, and mitigating water related risks. This includes leveraging productive aspects of water for human well-being, livelihoods, environment and socioeconomic development, and the management of destructive impacts of water such as floods, droughts, and pollution. Further work on the region’s and individual countries’ potentials to achieve water security in the context of climate change will be needed to understand the implications for water supply and sanitation services. For example, the global work by the World Bank Integrating Green and Gray – Creating Next Generation Infrastructure (World Bank, 2019), advocates for a new generation of infrastructure projects that harness the power of nature to help achieve development goals, including water security and climate resilience. This is yet another area where emerging technology, such as earth-based observations and advanced modelling using collected data via sources such as sensors, cameras, radar and satellites can enable smarter basin level planning and help to improve resilience. Potential water quality impacts from micropollutants is also an emerging concern at the global and regional level, and sound monitoring of water quality will help to reduce the risk to health and safety. The WSS utilities of the Danube region – along local governments and other stakeholders - will have an important role to play in water security objectives under a watershed approach, as gatekeepers of the human right to water supply and managers of potential pollution from household and municipal wastewaters.
- Water reuse and circular economy: The water and wastewater services sector can very specifically contribute to promoting a greener circular economy, which remains largely untapped in the region. The potential role of treated wastewater reuse as an alternative source of water supply is now well-acknowledged and embedded within international, European, and some national strategies37. There are different opportunities such as improving the management of sludge from wastewater treatment plants for recycling in biogas production or in agriculture38, or promoting wastewater reuse in areas expected to be most affected by climate change (where high pumping costs currently make irrigation not economically viable). Water reuse is a top priority area in the strategic implementation plan of the European Innovation Partnership on Water, and several studies have been supported by the European Commission in recent years to assess the potential in this area. Further analytical and dissemination work would be helpful for the region to make use of this opportunity to fulfill the value of the water resource and contribute to a water-secure 21st century Danube region for all.