What is WaterEurope?

The water challenges face in Europe represent a major issue for the population and for the economical sector. The market for technologies to adapt to climate change – like protecting from floods and droughts – is rapidly growing, considering that the cost of repairing damages is estimated to be about 6 times higher than the cost of adaptation. Moreover there is significant potential to boost the competitiveness and growth of the European water sector, which includes 9,000 active SMEs and provides 60, 000 direct jobs in water utilities alone. A 1% increase of the rate of growth of the water industry in Europe may mean between 10 000 and 20 000 new jobs, while synergies with other sectors may generate even larger returns (some estimates indicate that the application of ICT in water management and monitoring could produce growth of 30% per year).
The objective of the WaterEurope project is to develop a unique set of pedagogic resources dedicated to the implementation of hydroinformatic solutions (numerical modelling tools) for water resources and water related hazards management at the European scale. This set of resources (course material, exercises, data sets, modelling environment integrating numerical models and communication services) is jointly elaborated by the project partners. The partners will integrate these new resources in specific training modules integrated within their master course and will intensively use an innovative project oriented pedagogic approach towards the participants. The development of the resources and their innovative use will allow promoting to young professionals the new approaches for water resources and water related hazard management. Most important, the practice gained through these training modules contributes to increase competences and professional skills of young engineers in charge water resources at the international scale.

Erasmus+
Agence Erasmus+ France

About WaterEurope

WaterEurope is a Strategic Partnership under Erasmus+, the 6 partners of the WaterEurope Project are:

About WaterEurope project

The main innovative aspects worth underlying for the WaterEurope project are: 

1) Set of pedagogic resources. WaterEurope will create the first set of project oriented pedagogic resources dedicated to water resources and water related hazards management strategies. The resources will be integrated within an innovative pedagogic approach (problem oriented and collaborative engineering) that ensure competences acquisition for participants and fully integrated at the Master level by the different partner institutions. In recent years, through the collaboration within FP7 and H2020 projects such as CORFU, PEARL and WIDEST and numerous bilateral projects, members of the consortium have developed a original methodology for water resources management with the support of hydroinformatic tools (modelling tools) which aids the decision support process and uses coordination. This methodology is currently already applied in megalopolis like Beijing, Taipei, Dhaka, Mumbai as well as European cities like Hamburg, Barcelona and Nice. Through the WaterEurope project, the consortium will develop a unique set of pedagogic resources and an innovative training method based on the concepts of project oriented pedagogic approach and of collaborative engineering (ICT tools).

2) Innovative project oriented pedagogic approach based on the collaborative engineering concept. The WaterEurope project is based and developed on the close partnership between the academia and the professional sector (businesses and public services). Differently from other theory-based Masters programmes, WaterEurope proposes a collaborative and innovative educational approach equipping participants with a combination of the necessary in-depth academic theoretical concepts and with an intensive practice approach and operational analysis of concrete case studies of various European catchments located in the project partner countries. The project oriented pedagogic approach is based on the teamwork with an international distribution of the teammates within the different participating institutions.

3) Development and use of a Collaborative Engineering Platform. This tool is a unique web-based platform that will be developed and benefit from the knowledge and experience of the consortium members already applied in similar approaches during the last ten years. This unique environment will benefit from the most advanced technologies and the most advanced modelling tools provided by research and industrial partners. The objective is to set up a unique numerical environment that gathers the most advanced modelling tools and allows all participants to be exposed to such technologies. The support provided by industrial partners in this tool represents a very significant financial investment exceeding € 620,000. The platform is dedicated to serve as main work tool for all course participants throughout the three-month duration of the training module: during the first 3,5 months participants are based at their host university and work remotely collaborating with their peers through the platform. A final and intensive two-week phase reunites all participants at one location where they finally conclude their work project. This unique collaborative working platform groups all modelling tools developed by world leading enterprises and research institutes allowing participants to put their skills and competences into practice. The Collaborative Engineering education methodology was invented by the consortium and obtained numerous international rewards and nowadays is used by more than 3000 engineers worldwide as part of their education programme as well as within the framework of intensive programmes in Asia and in South America.

4) Validation of study credits. The new pedagogic resources and the collaborative platform will be used and implemented as a compulsory part within the master curricula of each participating institution and the relevant ECTS study credits will be validated by partner institutions.

5) United Nations strategic plan. The Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) developed by the members of the consortium is now adopted by the United Nations within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is currently a priority. In a similar way, the Integrated Flood Management Programme managed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in charge of all flood related issues worldwide and in which consortium members are contributing is inline with the proposed project.

6) Composition of the consortium. This is also an innovative aspect as the consortium partnership is based on master courses where the new pedagogic approach is integrated as a compulsory module. All partners have long and deep experience in water engineering and in pedagogic innovation.

7) Emphasis towards employability. WaterEurope aims to strengthen the capacities of young and skilful engineers equipping them with hands-on modelling competences of real case-studies

The WaterEurope project is a Strategic Partnership under Erasmus+

The partners of the WaterEurope Project are:
     - UCA, Université Côte d'Azur, France (as coordinating partner)
     - BTU, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus Senftenberg, Germany
     - UPC, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain
     - NU, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
     - WUT, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
     - VUB, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Each partner has a pivotal role in the project as each contributes with its experience and competence to develop the pedagogic resources and the collaborative platform:

UCA will ensure the general coordination of the project and contribute to the technical support. In partnership with City of Nice and various stockholders, UNS will provide the data set dedicated on the Vésubie and Var catchments and produce pedagogic resources for this specific study case. The expertise of UNS will be mobilized on drought and flooding processes simulation and on the methodology for hydrological deterministic modelling. These competences have been mobilized within the FP7 CORFU and PEARL projects.

BTU will develop pedagogic resources on the numerical modelling methods and tools that may apply for water resources management mainly for surface waters. These resources will be integrated within the collaborative platform and will be used by the course participants.

UPC will develop pedagogic resources (course material, exercises and data sets) dedicated to drought management and assessment of water uses in a specific catchment. These resources will be integrated within the collaborative platform and will be used by the course participants.

NU will contribute to the project by developing pedagogic resources focused on deterministic hydrological modelling (Modelling systems like SHETRAN). This aspect represents a new approach that could offer alternatives for decision support system and real time systems dedicated to risk management. These resources will be integrated within the collaborative platform and will be used by the course participants.

WUT will focus their development on pedagogic resources for groundwater modelling methods and tools. The ground water issue is becoming nowadays a major problem in many European locations and is frequently associated to a high vulnerability. The use of groundwater resources for water supply represents a major issue for numerous European municipalities. The produced resources will be integrated within the collaborative platform and will be used by the course participants.

VUB will develop resources hydrological modelling for surface waters. These resources will be integrated within the collaborative platform and will be used by the course participants.

The six partners constitute a unique consortium with complementary experience and knowledge which has been already demonstrated within the EuroAquae Joint Master Degree since 2004 and in various research projects . The innovative approach of the consortium is made by the uniqueness of the experience of each participant and its combination in one unified vision. The approach has been highly welcome by industrial partners who are recognizing this innovative method as a major way to improve skills and competences of young engineers.

In addition to the HEIs, industrial partners are also associated to the Project. As already mentioned they provide technical support through the collaborative engineering environment but also during the online collaboration and through return of experience (ROE) with the various approaches and modelling methods. 

Project context

As mentioned in the Horizon 2020 strategy (H2020 CS5), “the world market for drinking and waste water reached €250 billion in 2008, with corresponding investments of more than €33 billion per annum. The market for technologies to adapt to climate change – like protecting from floods and droughts – is rapidly growing, considering that the cost of repairing damages is estimated to be about 6 times higher than the cost of adaptation. Moreover there is significant potential to boost the competitiveness and growth of the European water sector, which includes 9,000 active SMEs and provides 60, 000 direct jobs in water utilities alone. A 1% increase of the rate of growth of the water industry in Europe may mean between 10 000 and 20 000 new jobs, while synergies with other sectors may generate even larger returns (some estimates indicate that the application of ICT in water management and monitoring could produce growth of 30% per year).”

The H2020 framework has planned to address innovative tools and methodologies, “such as advanced ICT and earth observation technologies, for risk assessment, mitigation and adaptation strategies”. It also addresses eco-innovative, integrated and cross-sectoral solutions for water management such as: “wastewater and drinking water treatment technologies; water reuse systems; closed water cycles in industry; enhanced desalination technologies; improved materials; process, behaviour and technologies to enhance water and energy use efficiency; and appropriate management systems and strategies that incorporate water, wastewater, storm water and energy systems and duly consider changes in its availability due to climate change or other stressors.”

WaterEurope project meets the objectives set for the Europe 2020 Strategy by addressing many aspects of all the identified societal challenges:
     • Health, demographic change and wellbeing;
     • Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy;
     • Secure, clean and efficient energy;
     • Smart, green and integrated transport;
     • Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials;
     • Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective societies;
     • Secure societies - protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.
Water - and its management - is a component that is explicit or implicit of each identified theme. The concepts developed within the WaterEurope project address explicitly those aspects.

Floods are natural phenomena that on the one hand are essential for the survival and health of the ecosystem while on the other hand can critically and permanently affect citizens, businesses and agriculture. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’ (CRED), flooding is one of the most important natural hazards in Europe in terms of economic loss. In 2012, of the 905 natural catastrophes worldwide 36% were hydrological (floods), affecting millions of people’s well-being and livelihood, especially in developing countries where poverty and food insecurity issues further aggravate the situation. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), floods are the single most widespread and increasing disaster risk to urban settlements of all sizes. In addition, urban flood risks are expected to increase significantly in the future as a result of climate change and demographic growth: the former is likely to increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme storm events, while the latter will increase exposure and vulnerability of humans as well as urban settlements.

Against this serious backdrop, nowadays European and worldwide urban environments are confronted with increasingly complex issues in terms of flood risk management and resilience. Specialists and experts in the field of water resources management and disaster risk response as well as urban planners, decision makers and industrial professionals are called upon the important task to reconsider traditional methodologies in favour of innovative and sustainable approaches which improve safety of exposed populations and reduce impact on natural environment. It is clear that the risk of flooding cannot be eliminated, but the reduction of vulnerability in flood-prone are can be achieved through a combination of elements organized around the concept of resilience.

Drawing from a definition proposed by the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), in the context of urban flooding "resilience is the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase this capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures”. In the near future, communities will have to adapt even more to increasing stressful environmental conditions, through disaster risk reduction and resilience building measures.

Since the year 2000, the European Commission has adopted eight Directives as legislative framework aimed at better manage water resources as well as reduce, through the right measures, the risks and impacts of floods to human well-being and the environment. Experience has shown that the most effective way is through the adoption of an integrated approach to flood management – one that recognizes both the opportunities provided by floodplains for socio-economic activities and that manages the associated risks – which is essential for the sustainable exploitation of water resources. The success of an urban planning project is thus based on adopting an across-sector approach and know-how based on:
     • Sound knowledge of legislative frameworks (Water Law and European Directives) and economics (micro-economics, public finance and government procurement);
     • Fundamental knowledge of earth science (e.g. hydrosphere and atmosphere)
     • Strong skills in numerical modeling and data processing;
     • Experience of using analysis and synthesis tools and associated methodologies;
     • Familiarity with decision support system (DSS) and communication techniques.

The WaterEurope partners wish to innovate massively in the pedagogic approach and to promote a completely new approach that is based on the concept of “problem oriented project based learning” (POPBL). The experience already gathered has demonstrated that POPBL can provide a relevant approach in water domain. The introduction of a multidisciplinary course within which almost all generic competencies required for employability and sustainability can only be delivered through a complex curriculum and innovative teaching and learning as oppose to traditional teaching method. The basic principles of POPBL can be summarized as:
     • Student-centred and able to motivate and gain commitment among students;
     • Problem-oriented and not subject-oriented;
     • Focus is more on learning process in finding solution rather than recall knowledge Project-Based which has goal and action for change;
     • Exemplarity instead of generality;
     • Promote group work/team work, social and communication skills.
The implementation of the approach requests a complete adaptation of the course materials and resources currently used in most of the Msc degrees.

The objective of the WaterEurope project is to develop a unique set of pedagogic resources dedicated to the implementation of hydroinformatic solutions (numerical modelling tools) for water resources and water related hazards management at the European scale. This set of resources (course material, exercises, data sets, modelling environment integrating numerical models and communication services) is jointly elaborated by the project partners. The partners will integrate these new resources in specific training modules integrated within their master course and will intensively use an innovative project oriented pedagogic approach towards the participants. The development of the resources and their innovative use will allow promoting to young professionals the new approaches for water resources and water related hazard management. Most important, the practice gained through these training modules contributes to increase competences and professional skills of young engineers in charge water resources at the international scale.

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