Water and Society 2015
3rd International Conference on Water and Society
15 - 17 July 2015
A Coruna, Spain
The third International Conference on Water and Society was held in A Coruña, Spain, organised by the Wessex Institute (WIT), represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia, and sponsored by the International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning and the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecodynamics. The meeting was held in collaboration with the University of A Coruña.
The meeting followed the success of the two previous conferences, the first of which was held in Las Vegas in 2011, followed by another in 2013 in the New Forest, UK, home of the Wessex Institute.
The meeting addressed aspects of water resources and requirements. The need for water continues to grow due to the pressure from an increase in the world’s population and a demand for higher standards of living. Major users of water, ie agriculture and industry, are at the same time those which contribute more to its pollution.
Many regions of the world rely on energy demanding pumping systems, which are depleting the aquifers and cause salt water intrusion in coastal areas, while some arid regions use expensive desalination systems to meet the needs of the population.
Various technological solutions have been proposed to optimise the use of water, particularly by recycling waste water for agricultural and secondary uses. Alternative methods tend to be energy demanding and this emphasises the importance of studying the relationship between water and energy systems.
A shortage of water will have social, economic and political implications which, coupled with energy requirements, can lead to a realignment of world powers. Thus the need to study the problem in an interdisciplinary manner, trying to understand the sources and consumption, leading to its optimal use as well as being able to predict future trends.
The conference reviewed these issues, as well as some technical aspects of water management and quality to help policy makers to develop regulations that will lead to sustainable water resources.
Opening of the Conference
The opening session took place at the School of Engineering, University of A Coruña. It was opened by Prof Carlos A Brebbia who described the work of Wessex Institute, particularly its conference programme which aims to bring together scientists, academics and practitioners from all over the world to interact in a friendly environment. The objective is to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge at an international level.
Carlos referred to the success of these activities, a permanent record of which is reflected in the digital library of WIT (http://www.witpress.com/elibrary) where papers presented at the conferences held since 1993 are easily accessible to the community. Carlos thinks that the archive is the best evidence of the significance of the WIT conferences.
In addition, the Institute publishes a series of International Journals, currently five of them, which are also available on the WIT Press site (http://www.witpress.com/journals). He invited the delegates who were presenting papers at Water and Society 2015 to submit an enhanced version of their work for possible publication in one of the two journals which support the meeting (ie the International Journal of Sustainable Planning and Development or the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecodynamics).
Carlos also mentioned the other activities which take place at the WIT Campus in the New Forest National Park, ie the research and development of computer simulation tools for engineers and scientists. This is also an important contribution to the international community, particularly industrial uses in mechanical, offshore, naval, aerospace, automotive and many other fields of engineering and sciences. The tools developed by WIT can be applied to solve a wide variety of problems. They are based on the technique called boundary elements, originally developed by Carlos’ research group at Southampton University before setting up the Wessex Institute. The acceptability of the technique is the best demonstration of the importance of the work developed in the WIT Campus.
Carlos finished by thanking all the delegates for their presence, following which Prof Santiago Hernandez from the University of A Coruña welcomed them.
The Conference keynote address was delivered by Prof Paulo Canelas de Castro from the University of Macau in China.
Carlos introduced Paulo by describing his career and the importance of his work in terms of the conference objectives, keeping in mind that technical solutions are only part of how to solve the problem. It is equally important to seek social–economic and political objectives. This is where Paulo’s work is particularly important.
Paulo Canelas de Castro is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Macau. He was previously at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. In both Universities he taught different courses of International Law and European Union Law, areas in which he has authored several books and many articles. Lately his research and publications have focussed on the development of International and EU Water Law. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute of European Studies of Macau as well as EU Academic–Program-Macau, and President of the EU Studies Association, Macau. He has appeared as Counsel before the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Justice, and advised states and international organisations, mainly on water issues.
Paulo discussed the evolution of International Water Law and the number of new treaties that are being signed, as well as the increasing number of cases being presented at International and Regional Courts.
The reason behind that is the knowledge of the looming water crisis which will result in water scarcity. There is also the perception that the established models are out of date and new developments are required. Old models were environmentally insensitive, represented outmoded social forces and are inconsistent with other progressive developments.
These factors are driving the new international law which aims to be more environmentally friendly, achieve social integration and acknowledge the need to have an internationally accepted legal system. Water law aims to include environmental protection, sustainable development, water quality and pollution control. It should also deal with extreme events and pricing.
The law needs to be brought closer to nature, ie be environmentally friendly. This requires not only looking after basins, water sources and catchments, but also protecting ecosystems. In the past, the treaties were created between different states, but this is not always the case at present. It is now important to democratise them, increase its functionality and achieve a degree of homogenisation.
Although water is regarded as a human right, it is only recently that this concept has been regulated. This has resulted in a more complex international water law which is now more harmonious and coherent. The key principles have been acceptable use and no harm, ie the prevention and minimisation of negative impacts.
The whole water law is in the process of rapid reconstruction. It takes stock of the global water aims and reflects different options. The changes due are a product of redefining how the law should be adapted to challenges of the future. It is also important to take water rights disputes to international courts.
At the end of the morning session at the University, the delegates were offered a tour of the Hydraulic Laboratory at the Technology Innovation Centre. There they saw some of the experimental facilities, including a demonstration of the studies on physical models recently being undertaken.
The facilities also include a Ports and Coastal Area with a large water tank. The Centre’s areas of expertise are in the field of civil engineering, including construction, public health and wind studies.
It also carries out fundamental research, as well as development and consulting services for the engineering industry.
The visit was followed by an excellent buffet lunch at the University, following which the delegates returned to the hotel, where the rest of the meeting took place.
The papers presented at the meeting were divided into a series of topics, ie
- Water resources management
- Water rights
- Water, sanitation and health
- Urban water management
- Water quality
- Irrigation management
There were two keynote speeches, in addition to that of Prof Paulo Canelas de Castro. They were also given by well-known colleagues, ie
‘Microfranchising rural sanitation: a sustainable development model for a scale-up of a sustainable technology’, by Stephen Mecca, Providence College, USA.
‘Crisis communication in water utilities with controllability of customers during emergency response’, by Nagahisa Hirayama, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan.
During the conference Carlos pointed out to the delegates the Call for Nominations to the 7th Award for the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water.
This is a scientific prize with focus on innovation. It was established in 2002 by the late Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz to reward efforts made by scientists, inventors and research organisations around the world, which contribute to the sustainable availability of potable water and the alleviation of the escalating global problem of water security.
There are five different prizes covering the entire water research landscape. The first is the Creativity Prize which is awarded to an innovator or pioneer of scientific work that can be considered a breakthrough in any water-related field. In addition, there are four specialised prizes on the following topics, ie Surface Water, Groundwater, Alternative Water Resources and Water Management and Production. Those interested should check the website of the Prize at www.psipw.org
The conference banquet took place in a well-known local restaurant and the menu consisted of a series of excellent Galician specialities accompanied by local wines, particularly the renowned Albarino. A folklore ensemble played for the guests after dinner, their repertoire included a series of regional pieces. The group consisted of two bagpipes and two drums. The bagpipes are typical Galician instruments, part of the rich culture of the region. The Galician bagpipes, more melodic than the ones from Scotland, are part of all local festivities or important family occasions.
Closing of the Conference
The conference was closed by Carlos who once again thanked the delegates for having participated in the meeting and hoped that they will attend the meeting when it is reconvened in the near future.
Carlos invited the presenters to submit an enhanced copy of their paper for possible publication in one of the WIT journals. He also invited them to participate in one of the WIT conferences in the future.
Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary in Volume 200 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN:1746-448X Digital ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at http://witpress.com/elibrary