Digital Transformation and Ecological Sensitivity is a Must in Water Management


Dursun Yıldız

Civil Eng. Former director of DSI, Water Policy Specialist, Member of TEMA Science Board, IZTECH Instructor

May 5 2023 

We must now complete the period of understanding the importance of water and move on to the period of managing the risks ahead.

As water managers, water users, and society, we have to move from the era of understanding the importance of water to the era of preventing emerging threats. In order to get to this stage, extraordinary meteorological events and climate change, which we have been experiencing for a long time, were added to many reasons such as population growth, pollution, migration from rural areas to cities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created at the UN in 1988. It has been working for 33 years. 6 Evaluation Reports were published. He pointed out that in each report he published, the situation became more risky than the previous one. In the latest report, it is stated that greenhouse gas emissions have increased, global regional temperatures have increased very rapidly, and it is no longer possible to meet the 1.5 0C increase target in average temperature compared to the pre-industrial period. In addition, precipitation regimes and patterns are changing, dry periods will become more frequent, and extraordinary meteorological events will increase. The predictions that heavy rains will become more frequent are emphasized more clearly.

Sustainable Water Management

Sustainable Water Management is carried out in an integrated, participatory and transparent manner, taking into account the balance between Economic, Ecological and Sociological objectives. However, our understanding of water and wastewater management, both in central institutions and local governments, has often had difficulties in maintaining the ecology-economy balance and has compromised on ecology. Various reasons can be listed for the necessity of making these concessions. Some of them may even be acceptable. However, it is unacceptable to continue the same management approach by seeing this destruction of nature and the bill that the deteriorated balance puts in front of us.

Access to adequate and continuous clean water and living in a healthy environment are fundamental living rights. But defending it is not enough. It is necessary to be able to implement it, and its realization in practice requires a participatory, socialist-realistic policy. However, on the contrary, populist policies are implemented for economic and political reasons, and non-governmental organizations, which are the voice of sustainability of natural life, are generally ignored.


Paradigm Shift required

Today, we need a change of mind as users and managers to use and manage our water resources by considering our social and national interests. We must realize this change by prioritizing all innovative developments and our national and social interests, and move from the understanding of the only supply of water to the understanding of integrated water management.

In summary; Instead of populist water supply policies, we need to switch to socialist realistic ecosystem-based water management policies. We should not continue to make the mistake of doing the same things and expecting different results. The national, economic, social and societal cost of this has started to be heavy. Wastewater management is an indispensable part of water management. Like all areas of water management, we need a paradigm shift in wastewater management. Here, instead of partially purifying and discharging the wastewater, we should treat it fully and turn to the recycling of this water. We should start using concepts such as "purified online water" instead of concepts such as dirty water and wastewater. We must do this not only to produce additional water resources for the limited water resources, but also not to disturb the ecological balance within the scope of water quality management. We should increase our efforts to store the treated and recovered water in our country, either directly in industry or agriculture, or in groundwater or surface water reservoirs and use it in other suitable areas.

There are areas where we use treated wastewater, even if it is a small part of our total water use. However, we need to increase this use in a planned and careful way. This is not only a problem of technical and economic opportunities, but also a matter of creating an ecology-based culture of thinking that starts with the understanding of protecting water quality.

Nature Based Solutions and Green Transformation

 The most basic concepts that water management should take into account in the coming period will be nature-based solutions and the increasing relationship between water-energy-food and ecology. I no longer count the basic benefits such as participation, transparency, integrated management approach. We need to get past these so that we do not incur the wrath of nature's reflex to protect itself from us with the damage we have done to the ecosystem balance. For this, we need an understanding of water management, which is called nexus in English, and which considers the connection and balance between sectors and the natural environment.

 We can do this with an integrated approach at the watershed scale. On the other hand, each of the fields of water-energy-food and ecology is accepted as a national security issue one by one. This situation may cause countries to seek cooperation through the links of these sectors, as well as result in the securitization of these resources. Turkey is a country that has transboundary water relations with the Middle East, a geography where this result can easily emerge. In order to maintain our policy of using our water resources for regional peace and stability, we must set high policy goals such as being an innovative and guiding country in water management in the region. Here, too, we need to proceed by taking into account an interdisciplinary way of thinking and innovative basic concepts of water management.


We Must Prepare for Digital Transformation

We should talk more about the digital transformation in the world, the nature-based water management approach, green transformation, green agreement, energy-water-food-ecology relationship and the thresholds in front of their implementation and we should make the necessary preparations for them.

First of all, we need to increase our digital literacy and create our digital institutional infrastructure. At the same time, we need to change our traditional and cumbersome working understanding in many institutions and organizations. Now we have to think better and plan what we do and for what purpose.

Along with our institutional capacity, we must also develop an interdisciplinary culture of thought. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, our need for a radical change in thinking is increasing day by day.

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