Andreas Lindström, Programme Officer at SIWI and cluster group leader for "Water and Energy" reports back from his visit to the AsiaWater 2012 conference.
The 7th edition of the annual water conference AsiaWater was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 26-29 March. The conference, which is co- organized by the Malaysian Water Association (MWA), is considered the major event in Asia regarding water and wastewater industry issues and attracts thousands of visitors both to its exhibition and conference component. Traditionally participants represent water supply authorities, policy makers, water treatment engineers, researchers, environmental specialists and equipment suppliers. The headline of this edition of the conference was “efficiency and sustainability”- key concerns shared by water and energy developers alike and areas of interest where management of the resources is connected in an obvious way both in the short and long term.
The morning of March 29 was completely devoted to a seminar organized by Prof. Gustaf Olsson, emeritus Lund University. The event focussed on risks and opportunities related to growing water and energy challenges both at the local and regional level. Other invited speakers were Prof. Otto Nowak of Joanneum Research Austria, Prof. Jules B. Van Lier of Delft University, The Netherlands and myself. Gustaf Olsson initiated the session by providing an overview of water and energy related issues explaining the explicit linkages between the resources and pointed to the fact that the energy sector "may be the largest consumer of water among all industrial sectors, but that this relationship is rarely picked up on as long as there is a surplus of both resources". Otto Nowak and Jules Van Lier talked about energy efficiency opportunities in waste water treatment. Otto Nowak provided exciting examples of wastewater treatment plants in Austria that were not only energy self-sufficient but even energy positive in that they on an annual average produced more energy than they consumed through utilization of combined heat and power units. Jules Van Lier talked about opportunities in anaerobic treatment of sewage, a possibly attractive option to commonly energy demanding treatment processes. He posed the question; "why destruction of chemically bound energy at the expense of fossil derived energy still seem to be the universal response in waste water treatment, when feasible options are being developed through present innovation advancements?". In my presentation I touched on some of the issues Gustaf had pointed out, bringing the focus back to the regional perspective of water and energy linkages, further defining the relationship. Examples were also provided from a transboundary perspective on how nations can collaborate on shared water and energy assets in shared river basins, highlighting the possible role of well executed hydropower projects in this regard. The presentation also included how dialogue can be enhanced between energy and water communities providing the examples from how the Swedish cluster group on water and energy linkages work. The presentation ended with an example of how a tailored version of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) can be used in sound water and energy development at the transboundary scale.
It was a very rewarding experience to take part in such an interesting event and to meet people from many different backgrounds with a shared commitment to sustainable development of water and energy resources - all framed by the very warm and hospital Malayan culture.