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Water in the mirror of climate change and sustainability: 2nd Hof Water Symposium attracts numerous participants

On October 12 and 13, 2022, the Institute for Water and Energy Management (iwe) of Hof University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the Kompetenznetzwerk Wasser und Energie e.V. invited specialists from the field of water management to the 2nd Hof Water Symposium. The organization of the symposium was in charge of Prof. Dr. Manuela Wimmer, professor and head of the research group sustainability and project management in water management and Anja Grabmeier, research associate of the research group and endowed professor and head of the research group water infrastructure and digitalization, Dr. Günter Müller-Czygan.

About 80 participants from all over Germany, but also numerous students of the university, accepted the invitation and discussed the leading topic “Water in the mirror of climate change and sustainability” during the two days and informed themselves in the context of the technical exhibition.

The participants of the 2nd Hof Water Symposium; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

The event kicked off on Wednesday, October 12 with a virtual and 3-D tour of demonstration plants such as a waterworks.

On Thursday, October 13, after greetings from Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Lehmann (President of Hof University of Applied Sciences), Eva Döhla (Mayor of Hof) and Prof. Müller-Czygan, an interactive, networking and at the same time sustainable conference concept awaited the participants. The day started with two keynote speeches and a subsequent panel discussion on the topics “Impacts of climate change on water management – from challenges to action” (speaker: Benno Strehler from the Bavarian State Office for the Environment) and “Impacts of climate change using the example of the Ahr flood – what has been learned?” (speaker Markus Becker from Berthold Becker Ingenieure). In his report on his experiences – Markus Becker was himself affected by the flood in the Ahr Valley in the summer of 2021 – Becker emphasized, among other things, how important it is to learn from the flood disaster and that, when dealing with weather extremes, it is imperative that water management take into account the experiences and mistakes made in the Ahr Valley when developing promising solutions for the future.

Speakers Benno Strehler (right) and Markus Becker discussed with participants following the keynote presentations; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Afterwards, an innovative format awaited the participants: “Speed Geeking & Exhibitors”. Here, five exhibitors, including WILO SE, presented their company and their innovations in a few minutes and in a compact form, giving an insight into the sustainability practiced in their company. As a visitor, one could thus gain insights into all five companies one after the other.

The event continued with the so-called World Café method, which was designed to get participants talking about the topic of water. The content of four short presentations provided the basis for a lively exchange:

  • Lecture 1: Successful implementation of digitization projects also with the anyway strategy – Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan
  • Lecture 2: Energy self-sufficient advanced wastewater treatment and recycling, for example with photonic methods – Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Schnabel
  • Lecture 3: Efficient operation management in drinking water supply with an eye on costs – Matthias Götz, Wasserversorgung Steinwaldgruppe and Mario Hübner, WILO SE
  • Lecture 4: Digital sewer network control for handling extreme weather events – Robert Köllner, Frank Große JenaWasser and Martin Frigger, HST Sytemtechnik GmbH

The program was completed by insights into application-oriented projects from companies and research. Prof. Müller-Czygan presented the status report on the digitalization of water management and Franziska Zielke from the Kompetenznetzwerk Wasser Energie e.V. reported from the Schwammstadt Region project on concepts for water management.

Prof. Dr. Günter Müller-Czygan lectures on the digitalization of water management; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

A frequently discussed topic at the symposium was the question of rapid implementation of solutions in water management. On the one hand, regulatory-formal framework conditions such as tender requirements or approval procedures lead to longer project durations. On the other hand, it is particularly difficult for municipalities as users to transfer sample solutions to their own situation. Here, there is a lack of suitable methods and support for a fast and effective transfer of learning and implementation.

Under the direction of Prof. Müller-Czygan, the iwe at Hof University of Applied Sciences is working both on robust and highly effective digitization solutions and on the development of methods for rapid and effective learning and implementation transfer.

In the run-up to the event, organizer Prof. Wimmer had already emphasized: climate change is water change. With the increasing decline of water also in Germany, innovative solutions are required to ensure sustainable development: especially with regard to ecological dimensions but also with regard to social and economic aspects. The more rapid the climate changes, the greater the challenge and also the pressure on the water industry to respond and, at best, to proactively drive forward the transformation. To this end, numerous products and services, especially with a digital background, are already on the market, are seeking broad implementation and are also being further developed. The transformation will preferably take place in system solutions with several partners. The success of the projects will be influenced by the social dimension, to use the wording of sustainability. In detail, this means that those projects in which people are particularly considered and integrated as designers as well as users will be the more successful and efficient ones. It should also be noted that water is not only a central component of water management, but also has to be managed in the ever-increasing field of tension between several sectors, such as agriculture, industry and the energy industry – with increasing complexity in the face of dwindling resources. Continuing to work on the “social dimension” and jointly generating the best solutions in research and application with people and water at the center will also be a central concern tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Against this backdrop, Prof. Wimmer’s research group is intensively addressing sustainability issues and placing them, among other things, in the context of recruiting and retaining skilled workers as well as a holistic sustainable corporate approach.

The symposium was rounded off by comprehensive information on the Schwammstadt certificate course, the DRhochN continuing education program for attracting and retaining skilled workers, and the S3REM network, in which conference guests can participate if they are interested.

Sustainability in the 2nd Hof Water Symposium

What made the 2nd Hof Water Symposium sustainable? The topic of sustainability was not only anchored in the content, but was also taken into account in the planning and implementation of the event (see also: https://www.hof-university.de/forschung/institut-fuer-wasser-und-energiemanagement/2-hofer-wasser-symposium.html).

In order to make a contribution to the sustainable use of resources, the organization team largely dispensed with the use of paper. This was made possible by the use of digital media for information and participant management and digital handouts. The social dimension was addressed by using gender-neutral language to address all genders in a respectful way and to make them visible.

Outlook for the 3rd Hof Water Symposium

By means of a survey, participants can now give feedback on the 2nd Hof Water Symposium and use the opportunity to provide suggestions on topics and focal points as well as interactive elements for future events. The Hof Water Symposium is to be held every two years. In addition, the iwe is considering offering further events on the topic of water management and sustainability.

Kirsten Hölzel

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