Nireas-IWRC seeks to become an internationally-recognized location for water related research. This will entail the Nireas-IWRC addressing both the creation and the dissemination of new knowledge focused on solving current and future water problems. As the creator of innovative technologies, the Nireas-IWRC will strive to expand the knowledge base along the key pillars (1) water quality, monitoring and treatment, (2)water supply and urban water management, (3) socioeconomic analysis for water-related issues, (4) human resources development, and (5) dissemination. Some representative, short-term research goals are presented in this proposal, while long-term research goals will be developed by the team members as the center begins to operate and as the Nireas-IWRC develops.
Cutting-edge technologies are needed that focus on water sources, transport, fate, monitoring, and treatment of emerging microbiological, organic, and inorganic pollutants. The use of photochemical and photocatalytic methods are a promising technology for treatment of emerging organic contaminants. Advanced oxidation coupled with nanotechnologies are also promising for treating organic contaminants in water. Improved chemical sensors that can be used to detect harmful pesticides or other potential pollutants are essential protecting existing water supplies, providing early warning of potential threats. The efficiency and reliability of urban water distribution networks need better understanding to alleviate the strain on the usage of water resources. Increased water demand has led to reconsideration of non-conventional water sources (“grey water”, desalination) as viable alternatives. In addition, the application of advancements in digital technologies such as visualization and geospatial database management systems could transform current practices and improving efficiency and sustainability of water management. For example, integrated water distribution network risk assessment and management and ad-hoc wireless sensor networks for integrated management of water distribution infrastructure are new approaches that can help water managers to meet water needs by reducing water loss. Another factor that is often overlooked is the role of socioeconomic strategies and the need to be complemented with scientific/engineering research. When one notes the tremendous increases in per capita water use in many developed countries, particularly in comparison with under-developed countries, it is clear that social behaviour towards water resources could play a major role in sustainability.
Nireas-IWRC serves to bridge the gap between research, education and practice, and between international and national efforts in water-related research and knowledge. Even though nationally there is a pressing need for research and sustainable management of water resources, the efforts to-date have been more reactive than proactive, sparse and uncoordinated. With water reservoirs in Cyprus at all-time low, a prolonged dry season, an average water loss in piping networks of over 30%, and water currently imported to the island by tankers, the need to establish and pursue high-impact research on conventional and non-conventional water technologies cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Past efforts to create such a research infrastructure have fallen short of expectation due to the lack the focus, coordination and dedicated expertise of researchers in the field. Yet the existence of water-related research and knowledge center functioning at an international level has been lacking for some time. The need for clean water in developing countries is great and there are numerous examples of attempts to bring technology to bear on these problems. In many cases, low-cost approaches can bring a significant benefit to a community. For example, the Water for People group has brought solutions for arsenic-contaminated groundwater to villagers in eastern India, helping alleviate arsenicosis, using an inexpensive and renewable aeration/filtration system. However, this charitable group has been successful at applying solutions and not at developing new ones. The proposed NIREAS-IWRC will be the first international research center to marry solutions for the multi-faceted water issues to the applications. International organizations (water-related) that currently exist are primarily academies of researchers having common research interests (International Water Association, Global Water Research Coalition, etc.). Several water related research centers exist in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere that focus on water-related research (Drinking Water Research Foundation, Water Resources Research Center, etc.). The drawback of these other centers is that their focus is specific to the location and to the expertise of the researchers. Hence, Nireas-IWRC operates as a magnet, bringing international researchers to the institute to focus on the most pressing water-related issues.
The individual research tasks foreseen belong to a broad range of disciplines, including natural sciences and engineering. Yet, they all deal with one single topic of water. Water management is not only characterized by rapidly growing concern of societal groups all over the world, but also by an even more rapidly growing body of knowledge. Many of the “facts” presented today are last years’ hypotheses and were not known at all, a few years back. For example, most of the difficulty of the proposed research is caused by the low concentrations and the slow and subtle mechanisms by which new emerging chemicals interact with water. Removal technologies that appear well understood in conventional applications have to be redesigned to become both affordable and effective against a whole range of different xenobiotics. The issue of xenobiotics and disinfection byproducts (DBPs; xenobiotics can act as precursors to DBP formation) and their behavior is subject to intense research and worldwide development activities. The proposed relevant tasks will answer to the enormous demand of knowledge in the field since standardization of analytical methods and recommendations for removal methods are far off in the context of these endocrine or potentially endocrine disrupting compounds. Nireas-IWRC tasks can promote the process of knowledge transfer and scientific discussion, and more importantly, the transfer of the existing knowledge on state-of-the-art techniques to the actual end users, which are the companies and authorities dealing with water and wastewater treatment. This would open the acquired capacities to a wider community, and would put the ongoing research under critical evaluation of external experts.
Since many researchers work in fairly specialized groups focusing on particular aspects of the water issue and on the other hand practitioners employed in private companies and authorities are somewhat focused on conventional approaches, Nireas-IWRC can provide the opportunity to all groups to enrich their training and expertise with interdisciplinary insights and widen their view on the dimension of the water research issue. The innovative character of the various projects is clearly provided in the description of the research tasks. Pioneering simulation codes for various water problems, state-of-the-art analytical techniques and engineering methods, for example systems for the protection of the water evaporation in dams or the detection of water losses during water transport, cutting-edge treatment technologies with new catalysts and materials, along with the demonstrative character of various projects involving bench-scale and also pilot-scale plants are only few of the aspects that synthesize the strong innovative character of the work to be accomplished through the proposed Institute.
Finally it is important to point out that Cyprus is an ideal location to establish a water center. On the one hand the country suffers from water scarcity, long drought periods and high temperatures; facts that leaded to the construction of a number of dams the density of which is among the highest in the world and to the mobilization of non-conventional water resources. On the other hand Cyprus enjoys sunlight for more than 300 days a year and therefore solar green technologies could operate efficiently. And finally, the young scientists involved in the Institute are Cypriots that have received extensive education abroad and who returned only recently to their countries with a dream to promote research and demonstrate that Cyprus has the potential and deserves to become internationally known in water science and engineering.