Water is a complex part of the natural, social and built environment that covers two thirds of our planet. It affects and influences every aspect of our planet from anthropogenic activities to our climate, weather, geomorphology and the flora and fauna on land, in our seas, rivers and oceans and in the air. It is estimated that 4,600 cubic km of water is used annually, about 70% in agriculture, 20% in industry and 10% in households. Demand grows typically at 1% per annum. It is predicted that the world’s population could reach 10.2 billion by 2050, up by about 8 billion from today, two thirds of who will live in urban areas, which will put this already endangered valuable natural resource under increased strain. Water quality in the water cycle continues to deteriorate in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America due to runoff of fertilisers, hydrocarbons, discarded plastics and the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated industrial and municipal wastewater. Climate change models predict that wet regions will be wetter and dry regions drier. This will exacerbate existing pressures and create additional ones on the natural, social and built environment in terms of water shortages, further health issues and migration and economic and political strife. At the World Water Forum in Brasilia in March 2018, Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of United Nations Water warned that ‘in the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.’ This keynote plenary talk presents some aspects of these challenges, examines the sustainability of water systems and discusses the role we can play as researchers and academics in our various fields to support and inform society to fight climate change and balance all our natural resources including water.
Dr. Aoife Foley
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, United Kingdom
Dr Aoife Foley is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of Engineers Ireland and Member of the IEEE. Prior to joining Queen’s University Belfast she worked in industry for more than 12 years and was a Lecturer and Environmental Protection Agency Climate Change Research Fellow (CCRP-09-FS-7-2) in University College Cork. Her publications are well cited (i.e. Scopus h-index 7 and Google scholar h-index of 10 with 541 citations). She is an Editor of Elsevier’s Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews. Present research activities include building a fully combined British Electricity Tariff and Trading Agreement (BETTA) and Single Electricity Market (SEM) model (EPSRC, £55k), developing advanced electrical vehicle charging/discharging operating protocols under market constraints to support grid operation and integrate wind power effectively (EPSRC EP/L001063/1) and a desktop study to examine the potential for ‘Big Data Renewables’ (Invest Northern Ireland).