According to UN estimates, over the next decade the availability of clean, drinkable water for humans could
decline by as much as 40%. Furthermore, industrial and agricultural demand is set to double by 2050, which
meaning that more than half of the world’s population will be at risk of water scarcity. How will these risks translate into
the situation in Europe and Poland? What did last year’s disaster on the Oder teach us? Who will be most threatened by water scarcity
is threatened most rapidly? And how to prevent it? Faced with this problem, the debaters at the 4th International
TOGETAIR 2023 Climate Summit, experts turned their attention to the current state of Polish waters.
Dr Alicja Pawelec-Olesińska, Head of the Water Ecosystems Protection Team at WWF, pointed out that the ecological condition of Polish waters is
ecological condition of Polish waters is bad. As many as 98.9% of Polish waters do not meet the standards of the EU Water Framework Directive.
Rafał Bonter, CEO of XYLEM, adds that only 10% of Polish rivers meet the requirements of good or very good
good, and a similar situation applies to lakes and open reservoirs.
Drinking water resources in Poland are very low, emphasises Rafał Bonter. Deep-sea springs provide the basis,
but about 40-50% of our water is taken from surface water. Renata Żyłła, Director of the Centre for Closed
Closed Circuit Economy Centre at the Łukasiewicz – Łódź Institute of Technology, pointed out that water quality status
is one thing, but what is in them is a separate question. Studies have shown that surface waters contain
micropollutants from industry and our daily lives. These can include pharmaceuticals, for example, or compounds from
industrial processes. These micropollutants, when processed in the ecosystem, can create further,
Agata Szafraniuk, Head of the Nature Protection Programme at the ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi Foundation, added,
that from a legal perspective, the management system of Polish rivers does not work. This is evidenced by the many proceedings
pending before the European Commission in connection with Poland’s failure to comply with the Water Framework Directive and other
Water Framework Directive and others. According to Szafraniuk, there is still a lot to be done to prevent water scarcity and
preserve its quality.
A wise Pole on the Oder?
Tragic events such as the Oder disaster highlight the need to protect rivers and the water environment.
As Agata Szafraniuk of the ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi Foundation pointed out, there are many gaps in the
legislative system, which result in regulations on paper not being effectively implemented in practice.
Dr Alicja Pawelec-Olesińska of WWF emphasises that the Oder disaster has drawn public attention to the
the need to protect rivers and the aquatic environment. People have started to take an interest in what flows in rivers and to
pay attention to the causes of pollution. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical water pollution is still a
a new and shocking area of research. Eels are becoming addicted to cocaine and fish are having their sex changed by estrogen
used in hormonal drugs, which is not removed by sewage treatment plants.
Raphael Bonter, CEO of XYLEM, has a slightly different view on water conservation.
He notes that water has been a topic of discussion for a century, and in Poland for a quarter of a century, but simply communicating
of it does not lead to concrete action. He believes that the WWF White Paper is a good idea, but local authorities need to be
to be presented with concrete, step-by-step actions, with clearly articulated priorities. draws attention to the need to
a forum should be set up to act as an interface between local and regional authorities, business and NGOs.
The textile industry and water
The textile industry is one of the sectors that has a very strong relationship with water.
Renata Żyłła, Director of the Centre for Closed-loop Economy at Łukasiewicz – Łódź Institute of Technology,
pointed out that the production of clothing and textiles requires a large amount of water and generates a wide variety of wastewater.
For example, it takes around 80 grams of dyes and 400 grams of
of salt. In addition, the textile industry is highly fragmented, making it difficult to control the quality of the effluent.
Strategic models and water management systems are needed to address this problem. As Renata
Zyla, wastewater treatment facilities are costly and water return technologies must be properly
selected. Therefore, when planning land use, consideration should be given to so-called ‘industrial parks’
industrial parks, which will be designed with the idea that wastewater will be collected in another sewer.
Rafal Bonter, CEO of XYLEM, adds that the basis of any functioning system is control.
Unfortunately, according to current guidelines, wastewater quality control is carried out by the industrial plant itself, which
often leads to a lack of control. However, as Bonter points out, there are technologies that ensure that
effluent quality control can be carried out online. Now we just need to transfer these technologies to
industry and local authorities.
Dr Alicja Pawelec-Olesinska, Manager of the WWF’s Aquatic Ecosystem Protection Team, points out the
the need to shift our thinking towards capturing water, especially potable water. In the context of the
climate crisis and the growing needs of food production, water is becoming an increasingly valuable
resource. It is therefore important that we learn to make better use of this resource and reduce its
New technologies – new opportunities?
Water is one of the most important natural resources that we need to protect and take the best care of.
However, modern technologies offer more and more opportunities to do this in a way that is more efficient and
sustainable for our planet. What opportunities are offered by new technologies in the context of water conservation?
were discussed by experts at a conference dedicated to this topic.
Rafał Bonter, CEO of XYLEM, emphasised that virtually anything can be done with water today. Thanks to
modern technologies, wastewater can be treated to the level of ordinary drinking water. Together with one of the
concerns, we conducted experiments in Manchester and Germany, where we made a drinkable drink out of rainwater and
wastewater we made a drinkable drink. We tested it and verified that it was safe to drink. Although due to
lack of education, it would still be too early for that. Technology has great possibilities, as an industry we can
close the water cycle not only in industrial plants, but also in cities. However, it is important that this
closure does not increase the carbon footprint,” stressed Bonter.
However, as the experts pointed out, implementing new technologies also requires a change in thinking. It is important,
for entrepreneurs to start paying attention to these issues and for the state to support them in their efforts to
water conservation. The focus should be on the imminent challenges as well as on the threats that the already
The textile industry, which is one of the main emitters of various types of waste water, must also take
take into account the need to protect water. Renata Żyłła, Director of the Centre for Closed-loop Economy
at the Łukasiewicz – Łódź Institute of Technology, pointed out the need for strategic water management models.
Wastewater treatment facilities are costly and the fragmented industry poses various challenges. She suggested,
that so-called ‘industrial parks’, where wastewater will be collected in a different collector, should be taken into account in land-use planning.
It can be seen, therefore, that new technologies and innovative approaches to water problems are key to the
the future of our planet. It is worth noting that virtually every industry and every company can
contribute to closing the water cycle and reducing emissions. However, to achieve this,
concrete actions and investments are needed, both from the private and the public side.
As Rafał Bonter emphasised, it is important that closing the water cycle does not increase the carbon footprint and therefore
sustainable solutions must be used. The implementation of new technologies and
educating the public on the rational use of water resources are other important steps we
we should take to protect our environment.
It is worth emphasising that water problems cannot be solved in one go, but require continuous
action and investment. However, as the above statements show, we already have the tools and knowledge to act
effectively and counteract the negative effects of water pollution. Now we just need to take
responsibility and take concrete action to protect our environment for future generations.
Two days filled with meetings, more than thirty debates, round-table discussions, motivating power speeches, dozens of Polish and foreign experts – this is how the largest environmental event in Central and Eastern Europe – the International Climate Summit TOGETAIR 2023 – is presented. The event takes place at the University of Warsaw Library on 20-21 April. TOGETAIR 2023 has received prestigious patronage from Polish and foreign institutions, including the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.
The full agenda of the event including panellists is available at: https://togetair.eu/agenda/
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