6d. Water and sanitation

Chairs: Cat Button; Lolita Liberatore

Diverse water issues and solutions were discussed.  These included water contamination, groundwater depletion, experimental methods for treating landfill leachate, and the use of saltwater to make concrete. Case studies ranging from the Philippines to Morocco and Portugal to Colombia demonstrated the global significance of water and sanitation issues.

The first paper used geophysics and satellite data to consider water conservation in Morocco and sparked a discussion about sink holes. The complicated relationship between water resources, tourism and hot springs in the Philippines was discussed in the second paper. The decrease in temperature can be used as an indicator of over extraction of groundwater. The next two papers both looked at the treatment of landfill leachate in Colombia: Paper three discussed whether leachate can be used as a resource, for example to create useable biogas. Paper four took an experimental approach to analyse whether horizontal wetlands can be used to treat this wastewater. The fifth paper completed the trilogy of waste water treatment papers by considering how the cost of waste water treatment can be reduced by making it into a resource that people want. The sixth paper in this track linked water and energy in Portugal to find that building typologies affect energy and water use and provision. The seventh paper took us back to the Philippines to explore the socio-cultural practices and uses of Lake Lanao. This paper led to ideas about rights, access and social justice. The final paper in this track reported on experiments of using salt water in concrete manufacture to reduce the use of salt water.

A key theme for the water and sanitation track this year was the contamination and treatment of water. This was central to several papers, such as those conducting experiments to treat water, and important factor across all the presentations often mentioned as a side issue. For example, the use of hot springs by tourists means that chemicals and dyes are added to the water leading to contamination of lake and groundwater. Governance and mismanagement of water resources is another factor that spans across the papers to highlight the social and political importance of water. This includes the use of fertilisers by Moroccan farmers causing eutrophication, untreated landfill leachate and dumping of garbage in lakes. Economic issues also thread the papers together. For example, to consider how the provision of fresh water and the treatment or waste water can be more cost-effective, how production costs of concrete can be reduced, how water use for tourism and hydropower is important for the economy but can have dramatic impacts on local communities. These cross-cutting themes show that water is a key sustainability aspect at the nexus of several debates.