For the first interview of the Innovation in Progress series, we speak to Saroj Yakami and Sanjeev Bhuchar.

They are part of the team currently working in Nepal’s mountainous Dhankuta municipality and Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality of the Dhankuta district.

The project aims to enhance natural springs while at the same time improve road infrastructure in the area.

Saroj is a water resource expert and Country Manager for MetaMeta Research in Nepal. Sanjeev works for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), managing the interventions on sustainable springs. For the RoSPro project he is responsible for the co-design process, intervention and spring conservation.

We meet over Teams, as they are both in Nepal. During our conversation it becomes clear that this innovative project aims to make a big impact, not only in Dhankuta, but across the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region.

Innovative approach

Saroj studied International Land and Water Management at Wageningen University. He joined MetaMeta Research in 2014 where he became involved in the Green Roads for Water initiative. “Roads affect how water flows, but water also affects roads. Most road damages are due to water. By reimagining roads as tools for landscape improvement we can manage water supplies and increase the lifespan of roads”, explains Saroj. “For the RoSPro project I coordinate the activities in Nepal, focusing on stakeholder collaboration, data collection, impact analysis and co-design processes.”

Making a bigger impact

For ICIMOD and Sanjeev this project is relevant for the entire HKH region, which spans across eight countries. “Nearly 100 million people in the region depend on springs for their water security, of which approximately 10 million in Nepal. Spring water is a lifeline, catering to drinking, domestic, and agriculture needs, but many of these sources are dwindling. This is mostly due to the rapid expansion of road networks, in addition to changes in land cover and climate.

Road development alters the spring’s natural outflow, while rock cutting disrupts the location of spring orifices. For a long time, this problem has largely gone unnoticed, which poses a significant threat to the local communities and their water resources.” In an effort to address both the depletion of springs and the rapid expansion of roads, this project combines the roadside guidelines published by MetaMeta Research and the Department of Local Infrastructure (DoLI) with ICIMOD’s hydrogeology-based spring revival protocol.

Consortium Partners

The consortium is led by MetaMeta Research. Saroj explains: “MetaMeta had been working on roadside spring protection guidelines specifically for local road network in Nepal, as part of the Green Roads for Water initiative. With the intention on integrating our work, we shared our ideas with ICIMOD, as they are experts on spring revival in the HKH region”.

Sanjeev: “For ICIMOD this was very interesting. We had been developing a protocol for spring revival as well as decision support tools for mountain hydrology. Together we could address both problems at once. FutureWater, highly specialized in water management in the HKH context, contributes to the project by creating a digital twin and decision support toolkit. Through the integration of advanced techniques and tools, the project endeavors to secure safe and dependable water provisions for mountain communities while also preserving the quality of road infrastructure and sustaining connectivity”. DoLI will oversee the implementation.

Collaborating with the local community and local partners

Sanjeev: “Our main focus from the start was getting the local community and local government involved, making sure to include women in every step of the process. Promoting gender and social inclusion is an integral part of this project. Women are a vital part of communities, but are rarely in decision making positions. We make a conscious effort to change that”. The bottom-up approach and participatory process was essential for getting the problem recognized and endorsed by local governments. Saroj: “It enabled us to incorporate valuable local knowledge in the Nature-based Solutions, with respect for local traditions”.

In the field

Since the start of the project in July 2023 a lot has been accomplished. Sanjeev begins: “We organized a kick-off to share the objective of the project with different stakeholders and started the process to co-select four roadside springs for piloting. There we conducted a hydro-geological study at field level. With the data from hydro-geological mapping, we were able to create 3D images of the area”.

Saroj adds: “We gathered a large amount of data to use in the co-design process. For example, we held household surveys and explored the area with locals to gather information about water quantity and changes in spring flows among other things. In Focus Group discussions we asked them to draw their own map of the region. This revealed all sorts of interconnections between their water supply and sources, built infrastructure, and other types of land uses. Valuable information that only locals have”.

Next step

Saroj is excited about the next phase: “At this moment, we are in the process of finalising the co-design process for the measures for improvements of both springs and roads to be implemented in four pilot sites by May 2024. We have a short time frame before the monsoon starts.”

Innovation in progress series

During the Partners for Water programme 2022 – 2027, several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy will be followed from start to finish. Over the next few years, they will take you with them on their transformative journey. You’ll be able to gain insights into their promising solutions, innovative processes and collaborations with local partners, as well as their struggles, challenges and valuable lessons learned. Stay tuned and follow their journey through the Partners for Water website and our LinkedIn page!

“The key to a successful project? Working in a participatory way.” Calzada del Agua has addressed water security challenges in the Mexican City of Oaxaca with innovative spatial planning and BlueBloqs technology. Their feasibility study, funded by Partners for Water, has been successfully finalized. Below, consortium partner Adrian Puentes elaborates on the study’s conclusion, the project’s impact and the next steps to come.

Mexico faces the challenge of managing both floods and droughts. To address this issues, Adrian Puentes, Architect and Urban Planner at BD+P, and consortium partners FieldFactors and Centro SC, introduced a circular water system featuring BlueBloqs technology. This approach enables the local collection, purification and underground storage of rainwater, and facilitates its reuse. Their feasibility study has now successfully come to an end. We spoke with Adrian about the outcomes, the impact and the next steps to come.

Did you know FieldFactors won the Partners for Water Award?

Outcomes of the feasibility study

“An important outcome of the feasibility study is that the traditional market square in we selected in the City of Oaxaca turns out the be the perfect location for a pilot of our circular water system. It has a high gap between water demand and availability, has great potential for creating social impact and the right physical conditions for technical and legal feasibility,” says Adrian enthusiastically. He continuous: “We encountered roadblocks due to legal regulations, but we customized our final technical proposal and managed to successfully create a promising business case.” Another outcome of the feasibility study was the development of an urban toolbox by Adrian and his team. This tool helps in the decision-making process for selecting urban spaces where their BlueBloqs solution can be applied.

Local impact

“Apart from naturally recharging the area’s aquafer, the project has also a social impact on the local people,” Adrian says. He explains: “The locals working in the market have formed various factions. Before the start of the project, they often clashed over different views on managing the market square. However, the project has united them with a strong, collective desire for its success.” Their collective enthusiasm for the project comes from the fact that they often face water shortages which results in expensive water deliveries by truck. “Our solution projects to reduce their water expenses by 50% while ensuring a more reliable and consistent water supply,” explains Adrian.

Additionally, the square is set to undergo a transformation from a deteriorated, relatively unsafe area to an accessible, green space with comfortable seating, prominent water features and enhanced nighttime lighting. Adrian: “This will make it a safer and more inviting place.”

Stakeholder involvement

“Working in a participatory way is the key to a successful project,” Adrian states. “From the beginning, we have involved many stakeholders. From the area’s residents to the water sector, heritage institutes and the municipality. Not only to involve them, but also to truly understand the people, the community and their relation to water.” Adrian explains that they incorporated this by conducting formal workshops and meetings, but also through informal ways, such as cycling around and socialising with the community. Adrian: “I think trying to be humble and aim to learn from the local community at first, and then incorporate these understandings into the solution makes an invaluable difference”.

The next steps

“With the positive results of the feasibility study, we are determined to move forward with the pilot project to proof the working of the system; technically as well as socially. Both the local people and the municipality of Oaxaca strongly support the project, so the next step is to secure funding for the pilot and develop the executive plan.” Adrian is very positive about the potential for the project to scale up. He says: “There are many squares like this in Oaxaca, and more than 100,000 markets in Mexico with similar water challenges and business cases. Many municipalities have expressed their interested in our collaboration already, so the future of our BlueBloqs solution looks promising.”

Innovation in progress series

During the Partners for Water programme 2022 – 2027, several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy will be followed from start to finish. Over the next few years, they will take you with them on their transformative journey. You’ll be able to gain insights into their promising solutions, innovative processes and collaborations with local partners, as well as their struggles, challenges and valuable lessons learned. Stay tuned and follow their journey through the Partners for Water website and our LinkedIn page!

Partners for Water LinkedIn

Ghana, like many other Sub-Saharan African countries, is experiencing extreme drought and irregular weather patterns. These climate change challenges are expected to increase and require adaptation and mitigation measures. To adapt, farmers need localised, climate smart irrigation advice. TU Delft, FutureWater, Holland Greentech and TAHMO are making this vital information accessible to local smallholders. TAHMO’s CEO and TU Delft lecturer, Frank Annor, reveals the underlying technique and processes behind their inclusive solution.

From his office at TU Delft, Frank discusses the innovative technology behind SOSIA+. As a Civil Engineer at TU Delft, he knows exactly how to implement the ideas of this elaborate service. But first, he explains the role of the other organization he works for: “TAHMO aims to develop a dense network of weather stations across Africa to enable precise weather monitoring and forecasting, and to facilitate openly accessible data. Our role in the SOSIA+ project is to provide the technology for the weather stations and moisture sensors, and to monitor and deliver real-time weather and climate data.”


Frank Annor

SOISA+ Technology

“Small-scale farmers receive localised irrigation advice on required water volumes and duration of irrigation from us to enhance water security and improve crop production,” Frank explains. “We’ve combined TAHMO’s data-collection technology with an algorithm created by FutureWater. Additionally, we offer training on the use of this system through the TU Delft partnership with Ghanaian universities and knowledge institutes and the Holland Greentech Ghana team.”

The irrigation advice is communicated through various channels, including an app, text messages, WhatsApp and in person. Frank explains: “Effective communication channels are crucial because we rely on farmers to collect and share data from their farms. This allows us to validate our advice and tailor it to the unique conditions of each farm. That’s why we created a modular communication system. The channels we use and the information we provide are based on the farmer’s preference and skills.”

An accessible service

“This technology stands out because it provides highly localised information that is directly applicable to the farmer’s field,” Frank explains. “Typically, such advanced technology is only accessible to large-scale farmers. However, we’ve developed a concept that allows multiple individual smallholder farmers to purchase the service collectively. Moreover, we’ve employed cost-effective, low-maintenance technology and a modular system that can be scaled to suit the farm’s size and the farmer’s level of expertise.”


“One of the key success factors of SOSIA+ is that we’ve developed the service and technology in collaboration with the farmers via an iterative process,” Frank reflects. “Our starting point was to discuss their needs and demonstrate how the system’s features could meet those needs. Then we created a mock-up, returned to the farmers for feedback, adjusted accordingly, and repeated the process. This approach significantly improved the usability and adoption of the service. It truly has been an invaluable lesson for developing solutions that genuinely meet the users’ needs.”



Both Holland Greentech and TAHMO have teams operating in over 20 African countries. Frank explains, enthusiastically: “We already have the necessary connections in various areas, and the system’s modular design is great for scalability. The modularity ensures the technology is easily adaptable to meet the needs of new users in different locations.” He continues: “Challenges exist, such as establishing a viable business model. However, the funding from Partners for Water allows us to test our business model and value proposition in the pilot project and to develop a sound strategy on how to sustain the service moving forward.”


Innovation in progress series

The Partners for Water 5 programme (2022 – 2027) follows several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy from start to finish. Over the next few years, these projects will take you on their journey of testing the feasibility or application of innovative solutions to enhance water safety and water security abroad. You’ll be able to gain insights into their processes, collaborations with local partners and their potential solutions; as well as their struggles, challenges and their lessons learned. Stay tuned via the Partners for Water LinkedIn page!

Southern Africa is suffering from severe drought. Together with Hydrologic and Emanti, research & consulting company FutureWater is working on an operational service that provides timely and easy access to water availability and demand across the entire Maputo River and the Black Umbeluzi River basins.

In our ‘Innovations in Progress series’, FutureWater’s water resources engineer Evelyn Aparicio Medrano tells us more about the underlying models for the GLOW project and the great power of collaboration

‘In the GLOW pilot project, we clearly show where the demand for water in the region is greater than the supply, from day-to-day to seasonal trends. On this basis, the local authorities in Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa can make quicker and easier decisions about water management and water security in the short and the longer term.’ explains Evelyn.

One decision support system

Within the GLOW consortium, the FutureWater team – which, along with Evelyn, consists of hydrologists Tijmen Schultz and Sergio Contreras – is responsible for the models behind the forecasts. Evelyn: ‘Our role is to bring all the pieces of information together: the weather forecast, the size of the catchments, but also the availability of and demand for water at different locations in the delta. In order to do this, we use tried and tested tools. We bring all the collected data together in one decision support platform called HydroNet. This platform provides all stakeholders with an overview of the data, presenting actionable information through a dashboard. The coherent combination of the different technologies is one of the features that makes this project innovative and unique.’

The decision-makers can also run different scenarios. Evelyn: ‘GLOW is and will continue to be a forecasting service, so you always have to deal with the uncertainties in your models. This is why we offer the possibility to run several scenarios. These scenario’s predict different outcomes based on the available data and possible decisions. It enables water managers to make more considered choices for the short term and longer term by providing them a comprehensive understanding of the possible consequences of their decisions.’


Evelyn Aparicio Medrano

Across borders

Another feature that makes the GLOW project unique is that the river basin from the pilot crosses three borders. Evelyn: ‘Collecting information in Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa and bringing it all together gives us a much clearer overview. Water managers from the three countries work together to share information and make decisions that are primarily in the interest of the entire catchment – and not just for their own area. We make this transparent and clear via GLOW, so that all parties involved can use the right information. All the stakeholders have access to the data from the other countries. It’s one system. I think that makes it a beautiful and innovative approach.’


Users are at the heart of the GLOW project. Evelyn: ‘We only started modelling after the first discussions with the different authorities in the three countries involved. Our South African partner in the GLOW consortium Emanti has all the expertise and tools required in order to bring to light this basic information. We can of course come up with 10,000 wonderful things to model and show them in our dashboard, but ultimately the question is: how does our technology help local decision-making or discussions about water management and water security? Which data do our stakeholders need in order to make decisions? We seek continuous input from the stakeholders. This is very important for the further development of the dashboard, and it’s how stakeholders themselves become ambassadors for the system.

The challenges

There are also challenges in this pilot phase. Evelyn: ‘For our models we would really like to work with data series with around 20 consecutive years, but they’re very hard to find. With a bit of luck, you have a few years of data here and there. We need to collect all this data and analyse it, in order to be able to use it. But the biggest challenge is bringing the stakeholders together. For example, we had organised a kick-off for all three countries simultaneously. But in the end, we had to settle with a separate kick-off in each country. Now we’re also working hard on inviting all the stakeholders for the Renko Conference in November, where we will demonstrate the GLOW-dashboard and its capabilities.

Further roll-out

Evelyn is positive about the further roll-out of the GLOW project: ‘We’ve already gained a lot of experience as a consortium. FutureWater had already worked with both Hydrologic and Emanti on other water projects. We know each other’s unique expertise and what the other party can contribute to a project. Now we’re working hard to ensure that data can be exchanged even more effectively and that our system can communicate with other platforms. We also have an increasingly better idea of what information the different stakeholders need.

Find out more about the GLOW pilot

Combating water scarcity by integrating circular water systems into a bustling Mexican market. This requires not only innovative technology, but also clever spatial design and a deep understanding of the political and social context. Calzada del Agua meets that requirement.

Their feasibility study, funded by Partners for Water, is coming to a successful conclusion. The key to its success? “Combining each other’s strengths.”

It’s a rainy afternoon when Karina Peña sits down in her office in the Dutch city of Delft. The glass wall and open metal shelving reveal a glimpse of vibrant activity. The innovative start-up’s CEO and co-founder explains: “Here at FieldFactors, we’re producing unique modular systems to make locations or facilities water-neutral and climate-resilient – we call them ‘BlueBloqs’. They consist of products for rainwater purification and control and monitoring that work together seamlessly”. Karina strongly believes in the power of working together – and not just when it comes to products. “We’re the technical partner of the consortium behind Calzada del Agua and together we aim to tackle Mexico’s severe water scarcity.”

Karina Peña by Guus Schoonewille

Creating synergy

The project benefits from the expertise shared by each consortium partner. For instance, while FieldFactors provides BlueBloqs, urban planning firm Beccan Davila + Puentes (BD+P) handles the spatial design, integrating FieldFactors’ technology into regional settings. Additionally, the Mexican consultancy agency Centro SC provides valuable support by managing the regulatory context and relevant stakeholders. “It’s a fruitful, complementary collaboration,” Karina says. “Since we had never worked together before, we had to get to know each other first. How could we create synergy? Clear communication turned out to be crucial – for example, to discuss what each of us could bring to the table and what we expected from one another.”

Bridging differences

The consortium adopted a proactive approach in order to understand the full implications of the partners’ differences and align their perspectives. “From the start, we defined a shared vision and project goals identifying the best ways to support each other in pursuing those goals.” This meant, for instance, combining each other’s risk perceptions. “Service providers, who mainly invest in work hours, perceive other risks than a technology provider like us”, Karina explains. “FieldFactors invests in materials and needs to deliver a product overseas. And we care about the future maintenance of the BlueBloqs.”

Bluebloq circular water system

Sharing experience

The differences between the three organisations are not just a challenge. They are also extremely valuable. “We wouldn’t be working on this project right now if it weren’t for the collaboration with the BD+P and Centro SC”, Karina says. “At FieldFactors, we had no prior experience in Mexico. So, we lacked local networks, as well as a thorough understanding of the institutional and regulatory context there. Our consortium partners had those networks and knowledge of the local context. Their extensive experience in Mexico is one of the main factors contributing to the potential success of the Calzada del Agua project.”

Stakeholder engagement

“We must actively involve local stakeholders if we want our project to have real and lasting impact”, says Karina. “From the local government to the water authority and from the water utility to end-users. They need to be on board.” That’s why the consortium has held numerous workshops with these stakeholders. “In Mexico, involving the authorities and end users is crucial for projects like ours to succeed. If you don’t engage with the local authorities from day one, you won’t make any progress. To create ownership and interest, it’s critical that they take part in creating the solutions. That’s why we asked them: what are your needs? How do you think a rainwater reuse system can work?’ We spent time genuinely listening to their input and that was reciprocated with enthusiasm and support from them!”

Stakeholder engagement in the Mexican city of Oaxaca

What’s next?

With the feasibility testing coming to an end, the consortium partners now find themselves at a time of realignment. “Having identified a receptive market, we are now discussing how to implement the BlueBloqs technology in Mexico and how we can continue working together. In the coming period, we will explore how to accomplish this effectively and what is required to grow as a consortium.

For large-scale farmers, using local weather data and a smart irrigation system is a well-known method to enhance water efficiency.

For many smallholders, however, this method is still unknown and difficult to access. The pilot project SOSIA+, funded by Partners for Water, aims to change this. Its innovative and accessible climate-smart irrigation service is currently boosting small-scale farmers in Ghana.

It is early in the morning when Lindsey Schwidder, Celestina Danso Arhin and Patrick Tannor sit down at the breakfast bar of a hotel in The Hague. The latter two, director and business developer respectively of Holland Greentech Ghana, came all the way from Africa. They are part of a Ghana Netherlands Business Council delegation and they are in the Netherlands to meet with Lindsey, Project Manager Water at Delft University of Technology. The two organisations are partners in the consortium behind SOSIA+.

Patrick, Celestina and Lindsey

Shared expertise

Lindsey is SOSIA+’s project leader. With a Masters in society, science and technology, she looks at the applicability of new technologies through a sociological lens. “In my work”, she explains, “I always try to figure out how complex technologies could work in practice”. Lindsey coordinates various international collaboration projects at TU Delft, of which SOSIA+ is one. “I am the nexus for these projects, responsible for ensuring that everyone can bring in their relevant expertise”.

Supporting farmers

“Using water efficiently and seeing farming as a serious business is still uncommon in Ghanaian horticulture”, says Patrick. “Smallholders use their farms to sustain their families and don’t always see it as a way to make money. We make useful technology and knowledge accessible to them, such as the SOSIA+’s smart irrigation system”. Lindsey adds: “This system will support farmers by providing irrigation advice regarding the necessary water volumes and duration of irrigation for the cultivated crop types. The use of real-time local weather data is unique in this regard.”

Ghanaian farmers working with the smart irrigation system

Accessible service

The project builds on years of collaboration between TU Delft, Holland Greentech and Ghanaian farmers. “A few years ago, together with TU Delft, we designed the ‘Farming as a Business’ course”, says Celestina. “While teaching the course, the idea arose to make an accessible smart irrigation service available to these farmers”. The innovative tool was designed in collaboration with Future Water, a Dutch consultancy and research company and TAHMO a social enterprise initiative, with hundreds of weather stations across Africa.

Local collaboration

“Farmers are not just users but also local partners in promoting and disseminating our service”, Patrick says. “Thanks to previous successful, long-term collaborations, there is strong support among the farmers for implementing a pilot project like this. The farmers we work with have realised first-hand that they can save a lot of money with our technologies, knowledge and services. This often makes them very enthusiastic about participating. They are truly our ambassadors and share their acquired knowledge and experiences with as many as 100 to 200 other farmers in the region.”

Ghanaian farmers working with the smart irrigation system

Experiencing impact

“We consider water conservation very important”, says Lindsey. “But Ghanaian farmers often have other priorities. That’s why we also focus on what matters to them. For example, we link our technology’s impact in the field to the reduced operational hours of the pump – in other words, to lower fuel costs.” Celestina adds: “The most important thing is that we really work with the farmers in the field and receive feedback from them. They are ultimately the ones who have to work with the system and feel its impact.”

Tool development

Lindsey explains that the pilot project aims to cover two growing seasons. “This will not only involve showcasing the service and monitoring water and cost savings, it will also make the SOSIA+ tool more accurate and smarter through corroboration by the farmers. In the coming period, we will train 15 farmers to irrigate a portion of their land using the smart irrigation system and to monitor the outcomes. And then, the pilot project will get started!”

TU Delft project members visiting Holland Greentech Ghana and the Ghanaian farmers

Innovation in progress series

The Partners for Water programme follows several projects that received the Partners for Water funding from start to finish. Over the next few years, these projects will take you on their journey of testing the feasibility or application of innovative solutions to enhance water security abroad. You’ll be able to gain insights into their processes, collaborations with local partners and their potential solutions; as well as their struggles, challenges and their lessons learned.

Visit the projectpage for project updates

Africa faces immense water challenges. In the southern region, where the Maputo and Umbuluzi river catchments and delta’s cover parts of Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa, drought threatens the area’s development.

The ‘Global water availability forecasting service to support water security’ (GLOW)-consortium works to address this problem. To find out how, we spoke to Ralf Linneman, Water Management Advisor at HydroLogic and project manager of GLOW, as part of our ‘Innovation in Progress’-series

Competition for fresh water

‘Drought exacerbates existing challenges in the Southern African region, such as food security and sustainability’, explains Ralf. ‘Population growth, economic development and the deterioration of water quality and availability brought on by climate change all contribute to increased competition for fresh water. But that’s not all. Take cyclone Freddy, for example; in a short amount of time, extreme heavy rains caused devastating flooding. For both the day-to-day and seasonal management of water resources, these issues require up-to-date information on forecasted water availability.’

The GLOW-project was initiated to address this need. Ralf not only acts as project manager; he was also involved in creating the operational system that GLOW uses. ‘The goal of this project is to pilot an operational service that forecasts – availability and demand – water resource information. Focusing on water stored in reservoirs, soils and groundwater bodies, the project spans across an entire cross-border water resources system’,  Ralph adds.

Dutch and Southern African expertise brought together

For this project, HydroLogic is working together with FutureWater and Emanti. Ralf explains: ‘HydroLogic specialises in providing decision support services for water managers through HydroNET; an open platform which translates massive amounts of data into useable information for water managers. FutureWater’s area of expertise is evaluation and planning: how do you optimally divide the available water? And Emanti is our local partner who understands all the main social, political, legal and cultural characteristics of users and catchments in Southern Africa.’

Transboundary water security

‘What makes this project unique is using and combining proven techniques to produce operational water availability and demand, up to several months in advance’, Ralf tells us. ‘This will help water managers to make timely decisions. GLOW will also provide this information on a transboundary catchment level. That means water managers from different countries work together to share information and make decisions that are primarily in the interest of the entire catchment – and not just for their own area’, Ralf explains.

‘Different existing models and systems interact with each other. One of the problems we had in this region was a lack of data; it’s hard to build and validate a complex system without it. That’s why we chose to work with techniques that have already been successful elsewhere. We also continuously talk to other HydroNET-users about their experiences such as what were their challenges and how did they resolve them? This way you can come up with a package of well working water management solutions.’

Co-creation with end users

Another way to gather knowledge is by speaking to all of the African parties involved: ‘Like the Joint River Basin Authority in Eswatini, an important stakeholder in this project’, Ralf says. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the end users – the water managers in the three participating countries. They are the ones making decisions on how to divide the scarce water. I often heard: “I’m missing information on this or on that, can you do something about this?” For me personally, it became my drive to support them in making water management in Southern Africa more sustainable. Understanding their needs and challenges is the starting point in achieving this.’

Pains and gains

Organising workshops is a good way to gain that understanding. Ralf adds: ‘We recently held one in Eswatini to gather regional knowledge. By using the concept of “pains and gains”, we identified the most important stakeholders, placed ourselves in their role and came up with direct solutions that benefit their interests. The fact that the local partners we invited also included their water stakeholder they work with, such as agricultural co-operations and disaster management organisations in the workshop was something I really appreciated. This not only demonstrated their involvement, but it also helped us a great deal to make sure that what we build fits well to the challenges they’re facing.’

‘Calzada del agua’, a feasibility study in the Mexican city of Oaxaca is one of the promising projects that Partners for Water subsidises

To get a basic idea of what this project entails please read the introduction interview we conducted with Nahuel Beccan Davila, a partner at consortium member BD+P. José Antonio Tello, public affairs expert at consultancy firm Centro SC joins us for the second installment in this interview series.

‘We are the local partner for this project’, José explains. ‘Something you need in Mexico, because navigating the institutional, social, political and legal framework can be difficult. To give an example, there are three levels of government involved in this project. The Mexican water authority at the federal level, the state government which in this case operates the water utility and the municipality of Oaxaca. And because Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage city we also work with the office involved in protecting archeological and historical sites.’

Bringing stakeholders together

The municipality is the driving force behind the project – promoting, operating and implementing it. ‘Their support and leadership are important to gain the trust of other stakeholders’, José tells us. ‘We are constantly in the process of working out how to best navigate this complex framework and bringing stakeholders together. We, for example, organise workshops and get more in-depth through one-on-one conversations. In addition, since this project is international, we also smooth over time zone and language differences.’

Important social places

Rainwater that would normally go straight into the sewage system is captured, filtrated and reused with the BlueBloqs technology. The project site was carefully chosen; a piped river runs underneath the street and furthermore there is natural aquifer. José adds: ‘Although there are more projects like this in Mexico, what makes this one unique is that we directly link the captured water to the end user, in this case a local market. Not only do they need lots of water, but markets are also important social places in Oaxaca. This way we hope to make our efforts visible to the larger public.’

Institutional frameworks

‘The technology works, and we can adapt it to the local context and conditions, but that’s not the biggest challenge. The difficulty for a project like this lies in navigating our legal and institutional frameworks. We are not quite as ready yet as, for example, you in the Netherlands. We are in close contact with regulators to ensure we get the right authorisation from them. We also formalise and explain everything we do. This way we earn the trust of all parties involved.’

What makes this project unique is that we directly link the captured water to the end user

Natural track to follow

Stakeholders are very interested in the scalability of the programme due to the water shortages in Mexico. ‘The opportunities and needs to do so are there’, José tells us. ‘This project is a first insight into how feasible it is. If we do scale up, of course there will be new challenges like finding other suitable locations to capture and filtrate water and finding the right end users. But, I believe that once this method has successfully been demonstrated, scaling up will be the natural track to follow.’

‘The Dutch government and PfW have been very supportive of this initiative. And they’ve been a role model to us as well, demonstrating how to work together with international stakeholders. So, I hope the Dutch government support continues so that we can keep finding innovative ways of establishing efficient methods for collaboration. This way we can make sure that the local adaptations of this great idea stay as close as possible to the original plan.’

Innovation in progress series

During the Partners for Water programme 2022 – 2027, several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy will be followed from start to finish. Over the next few years, they will take you with them on their transformative journey. You’ll be able to gain insights into their promising solutions, innovative processes and collaborations with local partners, as well as their struggles, challenges and valuable lessons learned. Stay tuned and follow their journey through the Partners for Water website and our LinkedIn page!

For the first interview of the Innovation in Progress series, we speak to Nahuel Beccan Davila, one of the project leaders of ‘Calzada del Agua’, on a sunny morning at the BD+P office in Oestgeest.

Water and culture form a common thread in Nahuel’s projects, as evidenced by both his story and his bookshelf, which prominently displays books about the Dutch polder and Mexico. Nahuel enthusiastically shares the ins and outs of the feasibility study that he and consortium partners FieldFactors and Centro SC have been working on since January.

Keep reading to find out how this common thread is also reflected in this innovative project.

Project leader

Calzada del Agua’s project leader is a passionate architect and urban planner, with a strategic vision and a love for water. After graduating from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nahuel moved to the Netherlands to study at Delft University of Technology. He worked on numerous international projects, with ‘water’ being a constant theme. “We try to integrate water into all of our spatial developments. Water is the engine of our processes and the centre of our designs. We have found that water has a different character in every country. One of the biggest mistakes is to think that your vision of water can solve it all. It’s important to understand how water is integrated in the local culture and how you can adjust your strategy accordingly”, says Nahuel.

Transforming challenges into innovations

Nahuel explains that Mexico struggles with both too much and too little water. The streets, especially in cities, often flood due to heavy rainfall. When he and his team were working on a masterplan for the municipality of Oaxaca, they were inspired to make use of the abundant rainfall. That is how this Partners for Water (PFW) subsidy project originated. Nahuel says: “To tackle both drought and waterlogging, we offer a circular water system that employs BlueBloqs technology. This technology facilitates local collection, purification, underground storage and the reuse of rainwater. To identify the best implementation site, we’ve developed a toolkit for conducting the necessary analyses. This approach is unique because we offer the spatial design and technical solution as a single product, resulting in an integrated water and space solution.”

Consortium Partners

In addition to awarding the subsidy, Partmers for Water has played another role during the project’s preparation. Nahuel explains: “After we were inspired to start this project, we contacted Partners for Water with our idea. As it turned out, they knew of an innovative startup that was already developing a circular water system. This led to a great collaboration with FieldFactors and our application for the subsidy.” From previous projects, Nahuel was already familiar with their local consortium partner, Centro SC. This consultancy agency excels at establishing the right local connections and analysing Mexican regulations, which is essential to navigate through the country’s various and complex bureaucratic systems and conducting the feasibility study.

Collaborating with local partners

BD+P has been implementing projects in Mexico for over 13 years, including previous successful collaborations with the municipality of Oaxaca. This has provided a solid foundation of trust for the current collaboration. Nahuel says: “With this project, the municipality of Oaxaca is making a statement about how water can be used in a different way. This statement aligns with the municipality’s vision: a city that promotes education. The stakeholders are included through design workshops, brainstorming sessions and interviews. The municipality intends to use the collected and purified rainwater for various water users, such as bus stations, hotels and markets. This recycling of water helps to solve their water shortage problem and reduces the financial costs of water usage.”

In the field

With a smile on his face, Nahuel talks about the existing challenges: “There are various laws and regulations in Mexico that sometimes overlap. In addition, data is often lacking. While you can easily request data in the Netherlands, here you often have to measure it yourself. Usually, we see a project as a linear process, but that is not the case here. We are going from A to B to Z and back again. As a result, we can say that the project is progressing a little less smoothly than planned.”

Next step

“At the moment, we are in the midst of our feasibility study. The outcome of this study will determine whether the project is technically and financially feasible. If it proves to be, we will apply for the next PFW-subsidy round to start a pilot project!”

Innovation in progress series

During the Partners for Water programme 2022 – 2027, several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy will be followed from start to finish. Over the next few years, they will take you with them on their transformative journey. You’ll be able to gain insights into their promising solutions, innovative processes and collaborations with local partners, as well as their struggles, challenges and valuable lessons learned. Stay tuned and follow their journey through the Partners for Water website and our LinkedIn page!

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