Havana, Cuba, 18 Dec 2013

UNESCO-IHE starts Urban Water Management project to tackle Water Scarcity in Cuba

UNESCO-IHE recently started the project '+AGUA PARA TODOS: Adapting to Climate Change and Mitigating Water Scarcity by Innovative Urban Water Management in Cuba'. This project whose short name accounts for "MORE WATER FOR ALL", and is led by Carlos Lopez Vazquez from UNESCO-IHE, has research and capacity development components, which will both contribute to the alleviation of water scarcity issues in Cuba. The project is funded by the European Union (project No. DCI-ENV/2010/247-301) and has a duration of three years.

The project aims to alleviate this water scarcity issue in Cuba through the introduction of innovative practices, including decreasing the demand for freshwater, encouraging wastewater reuse, and use of seawater as secondary quality water in the urban environment. One of those innovative practices is a seawater toilet flushing system, developed by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). 

"Leveraging Hong Kong's unique seawater flushing system, we have developed a novel, energy-efficient and low carbon sewage treatment technology," said Prof Guanghao Chen of HKUST about this system. "The ‘Sulphate Reduction, Autotrophic Denitrification and Nitrification Integrated (SANI) Process' can eliminate 90% of sewage sludge production, and reduce sewage treatment costs by 50%, space requirements by over 50%, and cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 35%." Moreover, the project also includes the conversation of part of a tourist resort near Havana to seawater toilet flushing, reuse of wastewater for onsite irrigation, and use of the SANI Process for wastewater treatment, to serve as a showcase for other cities in Cuba.

"Climate change is worsening the water shortage problem in the world", said Prof. Damir Brdanovic, Head of the Environmental Engineering and Water Technology Department at UNESCO-IHE, during a visit to the Shatin Sewage Treatment Works of the Drainage Services Department in Hong Kong. Prof. Orestes Gonzales of CUJAE, co-director from the project and leader of the Cuba delegation, highlighted: “The visit to Hong Kong is very useful.  We have learnt the valuable research and practical experience in seawater-based technologies developed in Hong Kong.  Water is mankind’s most precious resource, but an increasing human population and unpredictable climate means there may not be enough to go around.  We will set up the first pilot systems, covering seawater supply, wastewater reuse and implementation of the SANI process developed by HKUST, in Havana, with a view to relieve pressure on our stressed water resources strategically in the long run for many generations to come.”


UNESCO-IHE is leading a consortium of which HKUST is one of the international technical partners. The Cuba research delegation, comprising the Instituto Superior Politecnico "Jose A Echeverria" (CUJAE), the Cuban National Institute for Water Resources (INRH), and the Cuban Food Industry Research Institute (IIIA), together with Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) and University of Cape Town (UCT) complements this consortium.  

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