The proposed joint master course is focused on the technologies needed to improve the water management efficiency. The course is clearly in the engineering domain (and not in the management field) and combined water sciences and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The efficient management of water requests to address the water cycle according to objectives and type of uses. The water cycle can be divided in three domains which are associated to specific activities and business processes:
- Protection of natural environment and ecosystems;
- Natural hazards mitigation and disaster prevention;
- Water uses.
The first domain considers all actions needed to assess and advice on the environmental impacts of development proposals and projects related to specific water uses. Results are used by regulatory services. The domain covers also all conservation actions of water related ecosystems. Obviously, the protection of resources allows reducing investments that are requested to ensure the right quality of water according to planned uses.
The second domain is focused on water related natural hazards mitigation actions. Floods (mainly), water-borne and vector disease outbreaks, droughts, landslide and avalanche events and famine are the processes covered by this domain. Every year, disasters related to meteorological, hydrological and climate hazards cause significant loss of life, and set back economic and social development by years. The disaster is defined as a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic and/or environmental losses. The modern societies, with their growing vulnerability due to their sophistication, have to develop strategies that may cope and provide answers to extreme events. Recent examples like the tsunami in Japan (2011) or the massive flooding in Thailand (2011) have induced a deep review of the design criteria and have driven to rethink the protection levels for the exposed populations. At the same time, the emerging concept of resilience is gaining interest and represents an alternative that has to be investigated by both developed and developing countries.
The last domain covers the added influence of human activity on the water cycle. Generally, the water uses refer to use of water by agriculture, industry, energy production and households, including in stream uses such as fishing, recreation, transportation and waste disposal. All of those uses are directly linked to specific activities and processes that are potential targets for deployment of ICT solutions. In order to stick to the reality of the water management operated by entities in charge of water services, the traditional classification can be reviewed. The main water uses appear then as: agriculture, aquaculture, industry, recreation, transport/navigation, and urban.
In the three domains, five major activities are taking place and appear as invariants. These key activities are: Investigating/surveying, observing/monitoring, designing, building and decommissioning, operating. Each activity could be defined.
- Investigating/surveying: Consists in the gathering of information of the previous and actual state and/or working of the domain in study. This assembly of information can be done either by a systematic collection of field data (survey) or a collection of information or data from a methodical research of available documents and/or the production of new ones in order to understand or to improve the actual state of the domain.
- Observing/monitoring: From a general point of view, this activity refers to be aware of the state of a system. It describes the processes and activities that need to take place to characterize and monitor the quality and/or state of the domain in study. All monitoring strategies and programmers have reasons and justifications that are often designed to establish the current status of the domain or to establish trends in its parameters. In all cases the results of monitoring will be reviewed and analysed. The design of a monitoring programmer must therefore have regard to the final use of the data before monitoring starts.
- Designing (including risk assessment): Refers to the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs. It is a decision making process (often iterative) in which the basic sciences, risk assessment and engineering sciences are applied to convert resources optimally to meet a stated objective. Among the fundamental elements of the design process are the establishment of objectives and criteria, synthesis, analysis, construction, testing and evaluation. In order to obtain a design that achieves the desired needs for the domain in study, the two previous steps should have been accomplished and taken into account.
- Building & decommissioning: Consists in carrying out the proposed solution (design) for the domain. In order to execute this design, construction and/or decommission activities may be executed. It is essential a minimal environmental impact when accomplishing these activities. The tolerable environmental impact will be obtained from the risk assessment of the designing step.
- Operating: It refers to the action of manoeuvring a system. It may include the combination of all technical and corresponding administrative, managerial, and supervision actions. Operation may also include performing routine actions that keep the system in working order. This latest actions might turn out as response of problems detected during monitoring.
This analysis of processes, endorsed by the Water and It European sectors, has been performed during the @qua ICT for water efficiency FP7 project (http://www.a-qua.eu) and during the eLeanor Leonardo project (http://www.e-leanor.org) dedicated to identify the business processes and the job profiles of the water sector. The shared analysis established by participants that gathers leading companies of the water services and from the IT sector underlined the need to invest in the ICT domain in order to keep innovation and to improve efficiency of uses. The outputs of theses projects have been used to establish the Horizon 2020 references (see the Expert Consultation on ICT for Water Management, Brussels, 31/01/2013, http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/...). The main participants of the 2 projects are members of the consortium and support this proposal that is an element of the developed strategy.
The joint master course, with the diversity of partners, addresses the 3 domains – protection of natural environment, natural hazards mitigation and water uses – and demonstrate which ICT solutions may provide a real added value in the water management. Sensor technology, big data, hydroinformatics, communication, numerical modelling, smart devices are some of the aspects which are integrated in order to answer to the demand of the market. The organisation of the master course around this business processes approach ensures a coherence of the content according to the professional needs.