Involving construction in water management challenges on World Water Day
The European Commission estimates that the economic and environmental benefits derived from saving water in cities and buildings in the European Union are 30%. Fundación Laboral has been working for more than three years on the European WATTer Skills project for the qualification in water efficiency skills of professionals in the sector.
"What does water mean to you?" This is the title of the United Nations' (UN) World Water Day campaign, which, like every year, is celebrated on March 22nd, to highlight the importance of this natural resource, necessary for all social and economic activities on the planet. The UN's aim for this date is for everyone to become aware of the importance of water and to remember and try to improve the reality of more than 2,200 million people who do not have access to drinking water. For this reason, promoting "Clean water and sanitation for all" has become the sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which we must achieve by 2030.
Water scarcity is a major problem for many regions: the UN estimates that it affects more than 40% of the world's population, a figure that is expected to increase in the coming years as climate change accelerates. All this has given rise to a new social risk, water stressed, affecting around 2 billion people. According to the UN, it is caused by an imbalance between water demand and insufficient or low quality availability, which makes it impossible for human consumption.
Such a serious situation has highlighted the need to make adequate investments in infrastructures to guarantee universal access to this vital resource. Europe has drawn up specific regulations on water efficiency and management, both in response to the problems of scarcity and to the objectives of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
According to data from "A Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources" (COM/2012/673), the regulation particularly affects cities and buildings (residential, public and commercial), and takes into account the economic and environmental benefits derived from water savings in such constructions, estimated at 30% in the European Union (EU).
Watter Skills: Water Efficiency and Water-Energy Nexus in Buildings
Construction's involvement in water management is not trivial. In fact, Fundación Laboral de la Construcción participated from 2017 until December 2020 as a partner in WATTer Skills, a project co-financed by the EU's Erasmus+ programme, focused on the need to train, qualify and properly accredit construction professionals in water management, from plumbers, technical agents or designers, to other 'green' professionals, such as water and energy consultants.
The initiative launched at the end of last year a common European curriculum, a qualification framework and an accreditation scheme to help train and upgrade the skills of water management and efficiency workers in both construction and retrofitting.
FLC worked on this project, led by Adene, the Portuguese Energy Agency, together with other institutions from Greece and Italy: Center for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving (Cress) and the Ente per la Formazione e l'addestramento professionale nell'edilizia (Formedil). For more than three years, the partnership addressed the lack of water efficiency skills of professionals in the sector with the following results:
Report on the competences of water efficiency technicians and experts, compiling the skills that these workers should have, together with the definition and collection of evaluation indicators, which allowed the partners to compare water management in buildings, before and after the proposed training, and to evaluate the savings in energy and water consumption
Training and certification plan for professionals in the sector, developed as a result of the needs identified at European level. According to the requirements of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), Watter Skills proposes a qualification framework for technicians and experts in water efficiency, which includes the knowledge, the number of hours, the profile of the trainers and trainees, and the previous qualification required to carry out the training.
Watter Skills curriculum for water efficiency training courses, a result comprising the development of a competency-based curriculum or syllabus integrating the contents that professionals need to pass in order to be competent in this field. Moreover, training manuals for technicians and experts on water efficiency in construction and retrofitting were developed (both available in English only).
Finally, a proposal for a recognition and accreditation system for Water Efficiency Technician and Water Efficiency Expert qualifications was developed, enabling their mid to long-term integration into the training systems of the four countries of the partnership: Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal.
Water for Sustainable Development' Decade
The International Decade for Action "Water for Sustainable Development" began on 22 March 2018, with the aim of accelerating efforts to address water-related challenges and solve the most urgent problems. Thus, by 2028, the UN General Assembly proposes not only to improve and achieve universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation, but also to promote efficient water use at all levels, being aware of the nexus between water, energy and the environment. This is why initiatives such as WATTer Skills are essential to raise awareness, train and rationalise the use of water in the construction and building sector.