NATWIP is the acronym for a project titled “Nature-Based Solutions for Water Management in the Peri-Urban: Linking Ecological, Social and Economic Dimensions”. This is a large transnational research project funded under the 2018 Joint Call of the Joint Programming Initiative - Water Challenges for a Changing World (or the Water JPI), which aims to tackle the ambitious challenge of achieving sustainable water systems for a sustainable economy in Europe and abroad. This joint call focused on “Closing the Water Cycle Gap – Sustainable Management of Water Resources”.
Project NATWIP intends to develop and share knowledge on nature-based solutions (NBS) for addressing challenges confronting the water cycle in peri-urban areas, with significant direct implications for the urban core areas as well. NBS for water have been envisaged as central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development because these are rooted in integrated approaches and generate social, economic and environmental co-benefits.
The co-benefits generated by NBS cross-cut the fields of human health and livelihoods, food and energy security, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs, ecosystem rehabilitation and maintenance, and biodiversity. It is argued that the substantial value of these co-benefits can tip investment decisions in favor of NBS. Further, effective implementation of NBS involves the participation of many different stakeholders including those at local level. It should thus encourage consensus-building and help raise social awareness about why and how to adopt NBSs to improve water security.
NATWIP aims to contribute to closing the water cycle gap by exploring the potential that nature-based solutions (NBS) offer to address water management challenges in landscape areas that have been neglected because they lie in the transition zones between the urban and the rural, commonly referred to as ‘peri-urban’ areas. The overall purpose is to exchange learning experiences among the partnership and promote the debate between science and society in order to increase awareness among practitioners and users on the application of NBS to manage different hydrological challenges such as water scarcity, pollution, and risks related to extreme events like flood and drought.
NATWIP’s specific objectives are as follows:
The project includes case study sites in Sweden, Norway, Spain, South Africa, India and Brazil where the project partners have established contacts and ongoing work.
In order to reach its goal, project NATWIP has adopted an innovative approach, which comprises four components, that correspond to its four research objectives:
NATWIP aims at comprehensive research on NBS regarding water and wastewater-related needs in peri-urban areas. Though increasing interest in NBS in research and action is being expressed globally, this project’s originality lies in: first, developing an innovative multi-disciplinary approach to designing & implementing NBS for water in the peri-urban, especially taking socio-economic perspective; second, evaluating the strengths & weaknesses of NBSs for water vis-a-vis conventional engineering solutions from economic, ecological & social perspectives; and third, adopting an evidence-based integrated approach rooted in European and international contexts to develop tools to promote NBS for water in the peri-urban.
The innovation of the project basically lies in development of an interdisciplinary methodological framework to assess NBS for water and applying it to understand case situations spread across multiple European & international sites. The innovation further lies in creating a common narrative & hence best practices to deal with water challenges in the peri-urban through implementation of NBS. The innovativeness & comprehensiveness of the project can be further seen as represented by the 3 dimensions within which it operates: i) academic; ii) spatial; & iii) socio-political.
Academically, NATWIP is foreseen to promote knowledge exchange through interdisciplinarity approach to foster interaction between disciplines to develop a common language & a change in understanding. Spatially, the case studies are foreseen to illustrate NBS for water in six countries spread throughout four different continents having distinct environmental, economic and social characteristics. This will help generate broad-based information regarding NBS’ best practices and challenges for water and wastewater needs, serving as examples of solutions in different contexts. Socio-politically, the scientific data generated will be both dependent on inputs from local stakeholders and a useful tool in the creation of policy and action instruments, establishing a connection among science, society and decision-makers. The inclusion of stakeholders in the process would improve acceptance regarding the project, as well as amplify their awareness on water challenges and on the importance and scope of their participation in NBS activities for sustainable water resources management.
Research in NATWIP is implemented through four workpackages, which correspond to the different objectives outlined earlier. Every workpackage has a leader, each is carried out jointly by all the partners, bringing in their disciplinary strengths, and thus every partner is involved in every workpackage which facilitates mutual learning hands-on. Led by UPC, Spain, the first workpackage comprises review of international experiences of NBS for water management.
Under the leadership of IIS-Rio, Brazil, the second workpackage establishes a comprehensive methodological framework for assessment of NBS for water in the peri-urban, integrating ecological, social and economic dimensions.
Led by NGI, Norway, in the third workpackage, the NBS assessment framework is applied to study and analyze the case study sites. The 3-fold aim of the case studies is to: i) undertake a scenario study ii) carry out a comparative analysis, and iii) identify conditions that favor the implementation of NBS on water in the peri-urban and their driving forces.
Under the leadership of Stellenbosch University, South Africa, together with Södertörn University, the fourth workpackage aims at creating a narrative based on reasoned analysis, empirical observations & reflections gathered together with relevant stakeholders, on principles, processes & indicators for designing & implementing NBS for water in peri-urban areas.