The future Circular Economy – the role of water reuse in Ireland

There is an opportunity for Ireland to embrace the concept of a Circular Economy, which is gaining traction across Europe, and water reuse can play a key role in creating a sustainable future for Ireland. Unlike the traditional linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model, the shift to a circular economy model would replace scarcity with abundance and reduce the resources needed to run our water infrastructure.

A new project at the Water Systems and Services Innovation Centre (WSSIC) at Nimbus Centre will investigate the opportunities for Ireland to adopt water reuse strategies and technologies to enable a transition towards a more systemic water treatment system in Ireland. The 12-month project, which is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Programme 2014-2020, has a budget of €70k.

Water reuse is the process of converting wastewater into usable water. Water reuse solutions help to increase the water supplies available to a community by using technology to create clean water for a variety of purposes, such as: agricultural irrigation of food and non-food crops, industrial uses (cooling water, wash-down water, making concrete), non-drinkable urban uses (landscape irrigation, vehicle washing or toilet flushing), environmental and recreational uses, and possibly increasing water availability for (later) drinkable water production.

“The shift to a circular water economy holds much promise from Ireland,” according to Kevin Fitzgibbon, co-ordinator of WSSIC. “The water sector’s advanced technologies and record of multi-stakeholder agreements lend themselves to circular solutions. The transition to a circular economy in Ireland will also contribute to growth; creating new business opportunities and jobs, reducing our carbon footprint, reducing pressures on the environment, enhancing security of supply of resources and sustainability.”

The project will undertake a review of leading countries water reuse strategies which will provide an international context. Site analyses of both municipal and industrial sectors which are treating wastewater will be carried out to assess current water reuse practices and future potential.

Stakeholder engagement is also a key aspect of this project according to Eoin Byrne, WSSIC researcher; “By understanding the social science aspects such as general public and industry wide perception issues around water reuse, this will help us to identify pressures and provide an assessment of the current environmental status related to the water reuse topic in Ireland.”

The hope is that this collective process will result in the foundation blocks of a shared understanding of the issues, and a shared commitment to developing solutions for implementation of a successful systemic approach to water reuse in Ireland.

If you are interested in learning more about the project or would like to participate in the stakeholder engagement please contact:

Eoin Byrne eoin.byrne@cit.ie

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