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Holistic approaches for effective monitoring of water quality in urban areas

Expected Outcome:

In line with the European Green Deal’s zero pollution ambition, successful proposals will contribute to protecting water quality by managing urban water pollution, and consequently also protecting biodiversity and the quality of aquatic ecosystems, as addressed by several impacts under the Destination ‘Clean environment and zero pollution’, in particular “Move towards achieving clean, unpolluted surface water and groundwater bodies in the EU by advancing the understanding of diffuse and point sources of water pollution in a global and climate change context, enabling novel solutions to avoid degradation and restore water bodies, aquatic ecosystems and soil functionality, and further enhancing water quality and its management for safe human and ecological use, while fostering the EU’s and Associated Countries’ position and role in the global water scene.”

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Enhance urban water quality with a view of providing better guidance for policy making and prioritisation by developing integrated urban water quality monitoring management plans;
  • Sound, safer and risk-based urban water quality management plans supported by enhanced holistic monitoring, advanced novel methods and digital solutions, modelling and evidence-based scenarios;
  • Increase uptake of digital tools in the water sector to support water management decisions for all stakeholders.

Scope:

Water management in urban areas is confronted with a wide range of water quality issues. Urban runoff, is an increasingly important source of pollution. This is going to be aggravated by an increasing frequency of extreme events, such as floods and droughts, due to the impacts of climate change, as well as the increasing sealing of surfaces and rapid growth of urban areas. Moreover, water leakages from ageing water-service infrastructure and combined sewer or storm water overflows, leads to additional pollution releases into the environment. Water quality deterioration due to trace organic pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals, microbial contaminants, such as pathogens or antimicrobial resistance genes, micro-plastic, nanomaterial, and diffuse pollution from urban areas (roads, urban runoff) and from upstream agricultural areas or industries and many other pollutants often released unintentionally to the environment and finally leading to several forms of pollution of urban water sources. These issues are also exacerbated by the complex interactions between pollutions sources and pathways at the urban/catchment level interface.

In line with the ambition of the EU zero pollution action plan there is a need to develop an integrated and harmonised approach to monitor all sources of surface and groundwater pollution and their impact, including micro-pollutants, micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals and other contaminant of emerging concerns, as well as mixtures of pollutants.

This objective of this action is to develop and demonstrate a European wide ‘whole system monitoring approach’ to address emerging water pollution and water quality assurance in urban areas in various urban areas covering a wide number of water pollution challenges, , taking into consideration the interactions of pollution sources and pathways between urban areas and the surrounding river and where appropriate drainage basin, and improve the resilience of urban water systems towards pandemics and global and climate change challenges. New systemic concepts and holistic strategies to enhance urban water quality should be integrated and demonstrated in an operational environment, including decentralised systems, hybrid green-grey infrastructures or cascading use of water.

An advanced monitoring and control system, going beyond the conventional pollutants, linking drinking and wastewater urban cycles, integrating risk management approaches and exploiting upgraded digital solutions to support urban water quality management, should be developed and tested, combined with appropriate modelling tools and scenarios to assess and forecast the long-term impacts of future changing socio-economic and climatic conditions on water quality. This monitoring system should consider the overall monitoring and outlook requirements of the EU zero pollution action plan, the monitoring requirements of existing EU water policy legislation (e.g., Water Framework Directive, Drinking Water Directive , Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, Bathing Water Directive, etc.) and relevant national and/or European water quality monitoring tools, and develop recommendations and guidance to strengthen the implementation of the EU and/or national legislation. It should allow to identify cause-effect relationships and big data management to address quality pressures For this purpose there is a need to develop better methods to access chemical data to be able to track the use or the flows of chemicals in urban areas (e.g., to support case studies using mass balance approach to clarify hotspots of pollution sources). New and refined analytical tools and monitoring methods (e.g. effect-based monitoring, biological monitoring) to analyse broad spectrum of contaminants of emerging concerns should be also developed. Recommendations for the standardisation of monitoring and identification of contaminants (including detection limit) should be also provided.

To enhance the capabilities of real-time monitoring of water quality, the potential of earth observations technologies and the use of digital technologies, such as online sensors, artificial intelligence, digital twins, digital data spaces, etc. should be further explored and consolidated.

In general, the participation of academia, research organisations, utilities, industry and regulators is strongly advised, as well as civil society engagement whenever necessary, also aiming to broaden the dissemination and exploitation routes and to better assess the innovation potential of developed solutions and strategies. The direct participation of urban and catchment/river basin managing water authorities and utilities is essential.

Where relevant, activities should create synergies with the projects funded under the protecting drinking water and managing urban water pollution topics in the work programme from WP2021-2022, namely HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-03 and HORIZON-CL6-2022- ZEROPOLLUTION-01-04.

This call for proposals follows a two-stage submission scheme:

  1. submission of a 10 page short proposal until 21 Feb 2024 17:00:00 Brussels time
  2. selected proposals are invited to submit a full proposal until 17 Sept 2024 17:00:00 Brussels time

General Information

Call Type
EU Horizon Europe
Eligible Country/ies
EU + Horizon Europe associated countries
Call Identifier (if any)
HORIZON-CL6-2024-ZEROPOLLUTION-02-1-two-stage
Expected Outcome or Impact
ExpectedOutcome:
In line with the European Green Deal’s zero pollution ambition, successful proposals will contribute to protecting water quality by managing urban water pollution, and consequently also protecting biodiversity and the quality of aquatic ecosystems, as addressed by several impacts under the Destination ‘Clean environment and zero pollution’, in particular “Move towards achieving clean, unpolluted surface water and groundwater bodies in the EU by advancing the understanding of diffuse and point sources of water pollution in a global and climate change context, enabling novel solutions to avoid degradation and restore water bodies, aquatic ecosystems and soil functionality, and further enhancing water quality and its management for safe human and ecological use, while fostering the EU’s and Associated Countries’ position and role in the global water scene.”

Projects results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

1. Enhance urban water quality with a view of providing better guidance for policy making and prioritisation by developing integrated urban water quality monitoring management plans;
2. Sound, safer and risk-based urban water quality management plans supported by enhanced holistic monitoring, advanced novel methods and digital solutions, modelling and evidence-based scenarios;
3. Increase uptake of digital tools in the water sector to support water management decisions for all stakeholders.
Target Groups
Research Institutes, Academia, Small- and Medium Enterprises, Industry, Non-government organisations, Start-Ups
Submission Deadlines
Single fixed deadline
(Next) Submission Deadline
21 February 2024
Type of Funding Instrument
Collaborative Projects / Consortia
Max. funding amount per project [EURO]
5,000,000 €
Overall budget for all projects [EURO]
15,000,000 €

Author Info

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Patric Gerö

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