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What is water-smartness?

What does water-smartness actually mean and how does it connect with circularity? When searching for the definition of this term, one usually stumbles upon a few key aspects:

  • Efficient use of water: Water-smartness entails using water appropriately and not being wasteful with it, which means trying to minimise the amount of water used.

  • Managing wastewater properly: Water-smartness also includes trying to minimise the amount of wastewater generated and/or trying to minimise harmful substances within that wastewater and, of course, responsible disposal of the wastewater.

  • Circulating water: Connected to the two first aspects, water-smartness can also entail striving to circulate existing water more efficiently back to use, thus minimising the need for new water inputs.

The aspects mentioned above are all undoubtedly integral ones in defining what water-smartness is. It's easy to see that it just makes sense to use water efficiently, manage wastewater properly and reuse water where possible. These are very straightforward aspects, where it's easy to understand water has tangible, often directly monetary value.

But that's not all there is to it. Water holds wider and more complex meaning within ecosystems and landscapes. Water is what powers up the Earth's hydrological cycle, crucial for life on Earth. Water is also necessary in photosynthesis, which is an essential process to all our life on Earth. Water creates and maintains biodiversity within ecosystems, and regulates temperature and climate patterns. Water holds a lot of intangible value, with complex connections and not always direct monetary gains. These aspects are equally important to take into consideration for defining water-smartness.

Our water-smartness definition

After exploring the meaning of this concept, we've come up with our own definition of water-smartness.

Water within the food system contains a whole host of tangible and intangible value. Tangible value may be for instance nutrients or heat. Intangible value may be for instance the capability to rehydrate landscapes or maintain biodiversity.

The first step in water-smartness is identifying all the different kinds of value embedded. This requires understanding one’s own water and processes, as well as those of others and the surrounding landscape who might benefit from the embedded value.

The second step is to come up with suitable solutions to retain this value – ways to capture it and keep it from going to waste.

The next step is to think of ways to refine this value; finding ways to purify, clarify or amp up the value so that it can be utilised to its fullest.

The final step is to recirculate – to come up with the best possible ways to deliver the value either back to one’s own operations or to someone else or the surrounding landscape.


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