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Whether it is New York City, Mexico City or Ho Chi Minh City, enabling equitable access to clean drinking water, and adequate drainage and storm run-off must overcome multiple challenges.
Burgeoning urban populations need increasing amounts of water, but the changing climate is impacting primary sources. “What we have considered sustainable water management for decades is untenable when we consider continuing pressures on supply and quality,” Dr Anna Robuck warns us. Enrique Iomnitz explains the “perverse” vicious cycle of Mexico’s leaky grid. As in many Global South cities, supplying water intermittently reduces water loss, but when the flow stops, the pressure causes even more leaks - exacerbated by earthquakes.
Regenerative systems operate on a circular budget with more limited releases of water than the linear model industrialised countries are accustomed to. Enabling safe regeneration - even beyond consumer servicing - requires upgraded infrastructure, and also trust. Balancing safety with sustainability is a challenge even in the United States, where policies do not take into account the slew of chemicals pouring out of households, farming and industry. Governance and funding are often key differentiators between the Global North and South, but cities such as Lingyuan in China are leading the way.
The new generation of solutions need to treat water at a lower energy and chemical cost. The ‘sponge city’ concept and retaining increasingly heavy rains are starting to be taken on. To scale and speed up solutions, academics need to collaborate more closely with the private sector and governments. Local community engagement and education, public private partnerships and new distributed marketplaces for the commercial sector, as demonstrated by Romain Joly and Enrique Iomnitz’s enterprises, must also be integrated.
If you want to find out more about some of the amazing companies and organisations that the speakers mentioned in the podcast have a look at their websites:
On the circular economy and recycling water for resilience and sustainability Water in Circular Economy and Resilience (WICER): The Case of Lingyuan City, China, Recycled water for sustainable urban development
On sponge cities What are 'sponge cities' and how can they prevent floods? - Climate Champions (UNFCCC), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/28/climate/sponge-cities-philadelphia-wuhan-malmo.html (with Philadelphia in the US, Wuhan in China and Malmo in Sweden as examples), https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct3j26 (People Fixing the World episode)
Achieving universal access to safely managed water services in Cambodia: The case for complementarity of water supply solutions: https://rapport-annuel-2021.1001fontaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Complementarity-of-Water-Supply-Solutions.pdf
ANNA ROBUCK PhD
Anna Robuck is an environmental chemist/oceanographer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the High Resolution Exposomics lab. She earned a PhD from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography in 2020, combining analytical environmental chemistry, oceanography, and trophic ecology to answer questions about the fate and biological uptake of chemical and plastic pollution in coastal and pelagic food webs supporting seabirds. Robuck specializes in understanding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) using tandem and high resolution mass spectrometry. She has studied microplastics, pollutants and water purification in international waterways and oceans, and how these affect ecosystems and living organisms. Robuck was an ORISE Research Fellow at the US EPA, and has received recognition for her expansive thinking on marine pollution and PFAS. Robuck holds a BS in Marine Biology and Chemistry, and a MS in Marine Science and GIS, both from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her MS thesis focused on coastal water quality in response to stormwater.
Co-Founder & Director,
Enrique's work is focused on building decentralized infrastructure for sustainable water access, especially for Mexico's most marginalized areas. He believes in regenerative and local development, and believes it makes sense to harvest water, grow forests, and consciously build more loving human relationships.
Head of Business Development and CEO,
1001 Fontaines and O-We Water
With 10 years of professional experience as entrepreneur and consultant, Romain has held various positions financing and advising start-ups, socially innovative projects and small mid-cap companies in France, Latin America and south east Asia. He is passionate about early-stage ventures, socially innovative models and development issues.
For this episode we will be supporting 1001 Fontaines by donating £100 for Every 100 Listeners which will allow :
100 people provided with lifetime access to safe and affordable drinking water