NAWAMED project: a stakeholder’s perspective of nature-based solutions for wastewater management in Lebanon
The American University of Beirut, one of the partners of NAWAMED project, under the coordination of Dr. Yaser Abunnasr, aims during the current phase to highlight stakeholders’ perspectives on nature-based solutions in wastewater management. In this regard, an online interview was conducted with Mr. Marc Aoun to present his perceptions, problems, and experience about the tackled issue related to the market and check if the pandemic has an impact on the uncertainty of Non-Conventional Water (NCW) resources reuse at local or regional level.
Our speaker, Mr. Marc Aoun is the general manager of CubeX s.a.l., a Lebanese social enterprise specialized in decentralized wastewater treatment system that allows households to recover energy in form of biogas, water, water for irrigation and fertilizers in the form of compost. They work essentially on decentralized solutions using appropriate technologies, tailored to local economic, social and environmental conditions, which allow them to reduce the operational cost and reduce the impact on the environment while stimulating the job creation.
In accordance with the NAWAMED project’s aim, you need to find a right landscape and dynamics to make use of that treated wastewater, then there are lot of economic impediments and lack of competitiveness that come into play
In his opinion, with the gradual integration of the right infrastructure, water can be brought into industrial use, landscaping uses, agricultural use, etc… but with economic factors in mind. He believes there’s a promising opportunity there and year-by-year it will be more valorized.
Almost all technologies with biological treatments in a way are nature based, so as long as you put effort to process the water and convert it to nutrient loads, then you are using nature-based solutions
When asked about the limitations of applying such kind of solutions to the reuse of NCW resources, he explains that:
At the end of the day, regulation plays a big enabling role by settings into dynamics on water disposal because the harder it is to dispose the water, the more attractive it is to reuse that water. From another end, it has to do with social awareness because even culturally we have some cultural constrains for the reuse of wastewater. Also, economically, today water is still very affordable and we don’t pay the actual cost of it, so we misuse it very easily and get it for granted
As far as his experience when applying water reuse systems, he believes the start-up phase is the hardest part as:
People didn’t take into consideration that these are living systems that can take time to reach their performance appropriately, so people definitely don’t have patience and get easily discouraged
However, the good point is that it sounds attractive to them at the conceptual level that:
They can make drinkable water out of wastewater. However, when it comes to realizing that interest, people start to consider cost factors, as well as maintenance and risk factors
In order to foster more the integration of the NCW resources at local and regional level, what he believes we should propose is to:
offer the solution in a service model approach rather than the product approach. Whatever the solution maybe you will most likely find people who are more willing to pay for a service even if it might cost more than the solution whether you work at home or in the municipality or as farmers. So, that would be my advice to emphasize more on the service model approach rather than other approach
When asked if the COVID-19 has changed the perception of NCW reuse, he said negligibly and only short-term impact.
We simply need time to clarify how the solution takes into account all bacterial and viral based contaminations, not specifically COVID19, because the bigger concerns are E. coli and fecal and pseudomonas that are actual concerns to be worried about
In conclusion, Mr. Aoun believes in the implementation of water recycling in Lebanon, which he thinks will be more valorized with time through social awareness, and regulations if presented as a service model approach. NAWAMED project can help this process in Lebanon.