Societal Values, Tensions and Uncertainties in Resource Recovery from Wastewaters

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Societal Values, Tensions and Uncertainties in Resource Recovery from Wastewaters

Mar Palmeros Parada, Philipp Kehrein, Dimitrios Xevgenos, Lotte Asveld, Patricia Osseweijer

The recovery of resources, including water reuse, has been presented as a solution to overcome scarcity, and improve the economic and environmental performance of water provision and treatment. However, its implementation faces non-technical challenges, including the need to collaborate with new stakeholders and face societal acceptance issues. Looking at the prominence of the circular economy in current policy developments and the challenges to resource recovery, exploring these issues is urgently needed. In this work, we reviewed a broad range of literature to identify societal values relevant to the recovery of water and other resources from wastewaters, particularly urban and industrial wastewater and desalination brines. We discuss tensions and uncertainties around these values, such as the tension between socio-economic expectations of resource recovery and potential long-term sustainability impacts, as well as uncertainties regarding safety and regulations. For addressing these tensions and uncertainties, we suggest aligning common methods in engineering and the natural sciences with Responsible Innovation approaches, such as Value Sensitive Design and Safe-by-Design. To complement Responsible Innovation, social learning with a Sustainability Transitions or Adaptive Governance perspective is suggested.

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