Vlakwa-pionier Charlotte Boeckaert is sinds september bestuurslid bij Water Europe. Dit is het Europese Technologieplatform rond water dat sterke banden onderhoudt met Europese instellingen. Water Europe telt momenteel 224 leden uit alle Europese windrichtingen.
De leden zijn verdeeld over 7 verschillende colleges: Multinational corporations, Research & Technology developers, Utilities, Suppliers & SMEs, Large water users, Public Authorities en Civil Society Organisations. Charlotte vertegenwoordigt met Vlakwa de grote waterverbruikers (college E). We hebben immers een goed beeld van de noden van de grote Vlaamse watergebruikers vanuit onze studie rond het socio-economisch belang van water. Vlakwa overlegt ook regelmatig met de prioritaire sectoren chemie, voeding, landbouw en textiel. Charlotte is niet de enige Vlaamse vertegenwoordiger in de Raad van Bestuur: Hans Goossens, CEO van De Watergroep, is vice-president van Water Europe.
Hieronder vind je het interview met Charlotte en collega-bestuurslid Josep van Coca Cola.
You were recently elected as Water Europe board members of college E ‘Large Water Users’- Could you tell us what drives you personally to have this role at Water Europe? What do you want to achieve?
Charlotte: My job at Vlakwa brings me in contact with a number of large water users from different industrial sectors (e.g. food, chemistry, textile). It is my task to find solutions for their water challenges. I do so by match making with researchers, liaising with technology providers and identifying funding opportunities. I want to represent the large water users in the WE board to guarantee a reality check with my practical experiences in the field. On top of that, I hope to be able to convince some large water users to become members of WE to obtain a better member balance between the different colleges.
Josep: My professional career is around water. As the world is facing unprecedent water issues (scarcity, water rights, sanitation, etc.), there are also big opportunities like reuse, recycle, sustainability, etc. Water Europe as multidisciplinary platform offers a huge opportunity to water users to meet providers, service suppliers, researchers, to discuss on water topics, solutions, and funding opportunities. With Charlotte, we aim at enlarging the actual membership and invite other large water users to join.
Representing the large water users at Water Europe, which ones do you consider the key challenges and the most burning needs of this college and how do you contribute to addressing these in the context of Water Europe?
Josep: Water is used everywhere and every day in our lives. Many activities and industrial processes do not work without water. One of the key points is regulations. The European water regulatory framework is complex and regulatory developments are followed up by Water Europe’s policy committee and developments raised to members so they can evaluate impacts on their activities, and on the other side, feed-back is received from members that can be conveyed to the European Institutions through the policy advisory committee.
Charlotte: I think that my board colleague Josep and I in the first place need to listen to the college E members. They need to address their key challenges and burning needs to us so that we can bring it to a higher level within Water Europe. For instance, I can imagine that new policy developments might have a big impact on large water users. It is our task to map potential implications and raise this to the policy advisory committee.
How important is for large water users to be involved in European affairs and have a platform for networking purposes?
Charlotte: It is appealing to be a member of a European platform who synthesizes for you the most important developments with respect to water in Europe. This ranges from technological innovations and networking opportunities to policy developments and financing instruments. You could never do this job by yourself. On top of that, these specialists are familiar with the tangle of European institutions and know to who to address what.
Josep: Water Europe is bringing to its members the latest technological and regulatory developments, financing opportunities for projects, and a vision on the future of water and society. However, understanding the water and environmental regulations and engaging in advocacy is necessary. Networking is the only way water users or anyone involved in the use of water can learn about what’s happening and how relevant issues can be tackled.
Based on our vision, Water Europe aims to build a Water-Smart Society. From your point of view, which actions shall we put forward to make this happen and how could the large water users contribute to that?
Josep: First people need to take conscience on how important is the water in our lives. In Europe we have water stressed areas but still we can afford water of good quality. A water-smart society needs to be instructed, and then offer smart solutions to face water scarcity, water reuse and recycle, wastewater treatment, etc. to ensure water of quality and quantity for future generations. In all these aspects Water Europe can play a significant role.
Charlotte: A lot of water-related innovations and solutions are already out there. Time has come for massive implementation. Large water users should take up an exemplary role. They could for instance offer access to one of their sites to function as industrial living labs. I also think that a water-smart society is not built from today to tomorrow. In that respect a return-on-investment of 3 years or less is not always feasible for water-related investments. This mindset should change and large water users can play a leading role in this to preserve our planet.