About the Author
Name and title(s): Enrique Cabrera
Areas of expertise: Hydraulics, Urban water services, Water and Energy, Water policy and regulation
This year is the fifth IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition (WDCE 2017). Why is this event important?
Despite the many efforts to bridge the gap between goals and reality, the gap keeps effectively growing. The solutions are not developed quick enough to cope with the growth of the problems. It would be very convenient to be able to reverse that trend so we are able to start bridging the gap. This will only be possible if all stakeholders act together and join forces, the WDCE is an excellent forum to progress in this direction.
This year, the theme of the IWA WDCE is “sustainable solutions for emerging economies”. What, in your field, are some of the most important aspects of this theme?
The development of new infrastructures is a costly endeavor that someone must finance. This is a key issue, especially in emerging economies, where satisfying the needs derived from the exponential growth of the population and large cities is critical. However, the actual solutions that we see in place are usually not designed for an effective cost recovery and, therefore, the financial sustainability is currently very difficult to achieve.
This is a critical problem and the solutions need to be applied in several fronts. New disruptive technologies are needed to face these problems. Additionally, water professionals need to be adequately trained at a local level to support the development and manage all the new infrastructure that will be needed in the coming decades. Finally, governments and societies need to be educated in water sustainability principles to ensure that once a solution is in place, it is maintained and becomes sustainable from the financial, environmental and social perspectives. As an overarching principle, the water sector needs to be efficient, and this means an unprecedented level of efficiency never seen in the past to have a chance of success at facing the problems.
All this is very easy to say, but needless to say, will be extremely difficult to achieve.
What, for you, is the most significant or exciting research area in water and development today?
Following with the previous answer, achieving greater levels of efficiency will be critical in almost all fronts. Personally, and given my background, the water energy-nexus and the efficient management of infrastructure and services are at the top of the list. Additionally, I am greatly interested in achieving that same efficiency in situations with scarce data, something that will be needed in emerging economies. Additionally, it is critical that policies follow these changes and hence, the regulation of water services and the related public policy is another great interest of mine. Finally, I have the conviction that we need to transfer all this knowledge to water professionals across the globe. We are devoting significant efforts at improving our e-learning methods and materials since we are already noticing how effective this method is to train water professionals in emerging economies.
Featured author content for WDCE:
Performance Indicators for Water Supply Services: Third Edition (Spanish translation coming soon)
Aquarating: An International Standard for Assessing Water and Wastewater Services (also available in Spanish: AquaRating: Un estándar internacional para evaluar los servicios de agua y alcantarillado saneamiento)