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ISO workshop tackles global water challenges

by Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis on
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More than 150 participants attended the ISO international workshop on water access and use, organized in conjunction with the Sewage Works Exhibition in Kobe, Japan – one of the world’s largest events on the subject.

The workshop, “Global water challenges – How can ISO standards help?”, hosted by the Japanese Standards Association (JSA) on 25-26 July 2012, aimed to:

  • Raise awareness of water-related standardization and its potential to disseminate technology, share knowledge and best practices, and diffuse needed solutions on a global basis
  • Propose and examine standardization initiatives to address the global water challenge
  • Identify priorities and define a recommended action plan for the development of new ISO standards in the field

Almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water and more than 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year as a result of water and sanitation-related diseases. It is also estimated that improved water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent at least 9 % of the global disease burden and 6 % of all deaths.

Speaking at the opening, ISO Deputy Secretary-General Mr. Kevin McKinley underlined the importance of water: “Water-related challenges are some of the most debilitating and complex issues facing our planet. However, fundamental improvements can be made through the use of leading, optimized technologies, improved water infrastructures and equipment, reliable analyses and methods, good industrial practices, and leading approaches to processes, systems and management.”

He went on to say: “ISO standards play a primary role in promoting access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, and assist improved governance at all levels – a UN Millennium Development Goal recognizing that access to water is an essential human right.”

Of ISO’s more than 19 100 International Standards, over 550 relate specifically to water. They tackle issues like the service management of drinking and wastewater systems, water supply during crisis situations, irrigation, quality and conservation (e.g. hydrometry, quality sampling, water footprint) and infrastructure (e.g. pipes, valves, metering).

The workshop featured leading speakers in the fields of (1) technologies and services for treatment and sanitation; (2) the sustainability of water and communities; and (3) managing water-related assets, risks and crises.  

The event’s interactive format prompted extensive discussion among participants, and generated a wealth of new ideas to address gaps and opportunities for ISO to tackle water-related challenges.  

The workshop developed more than 100 ideas that were captured in 14 broad categories, prioritized as follows:

1. Addressing system water loss and water leakage – including water-saving techniques; economic and efficiency aspects of water loss management; technical standards addressing pressure management, water hammer and other loss issues.

2. Standards for the reuse of water – including criteria for the reuse of treated waste water (for irrigation as well as other applications), water recycling, guidance on public engagement and public acceptance issues, water reuse equipment and material standards.

3. Standards on sludge use and generation – such as guidelines on wastewater generation of sludge; public information and awareness issues; biogas, bioplastic and mineral production standards for sludge.

4. Storm water management standards – addressing areas such as early warning systems; counter-measures; urban planning; hazard maps; health risk management.

5. Water-related asset management – including preventive maintenance; asset renewal and expansion; public and private operator considerations; technical asset management; decision tools; technical maintenance procedures; rehabilitation issues; performance indicators; pipe surveying and measurement methodologies.

And with additional workshop ideas developed in the following priority categories:

6. Water crisis management

7. Water footprint issues

8. Benchmarking of water-related processes and approaches

9. Watershed management

10. Expanded work on water quality

11. Public and general awareness issues

12. Building on new bio-gas energy opportunities

13. Considering new management and system standards

14. Ensuring coherent water terminology and classification

ISO recently established an Implementation Task Force on Water to help integrate ISO Council recommendations and provide follow-up to the ideas and priorities emerging from the workshop in Kobe, Japan. It will also advise ISO on the most effective way to organize the on-going development of its existing water standards, and how ISO might best address the proposed new priority subjects.

The Task Force comprises chairpersons of ISO committees in water-related fields, and representatives from interested stakeholder groups. It is co-chaired by France (Dr Christophe BONNIN, Veolia eau) and Japan (Ryuji UEMATSU, Japan Sewage Works Association).

The Task Force will deliver its final report to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) in February 2013 and will assist ISO to address water-related initiatives.

The complete set of presentations made by workshop participants are now available.