Mistra InfraMaint’s first workshop for doctoral students

At the end of September, it was time for Mistra InfraMaint’s first workshop for doctoral students involved in the research programme. InfraMaint, a research programme that started about a year ago, focuses on “smart” maintenance of infrastructure. The vision of the programme is a “sustainable infrastructure that is safe and available around the clock”. Critical infrastructure, like roads and water systems, are important for the daily functioning of the society. To guarantee their future services, knowledgeable and informed decisions need to be done to properly manage and maintain these systems. The implementation of smart technologies, such as sensors, AI, and IoT, has the potential of improving and making maintenance more sustainable and efficient. InfraMaint aims to halve the competence shortage and give municipalities and W&S operations a better basis for maintenance decisions.

The workshop took place at Stockholm Vatten och Avfall, Sweden’s largest water and waste management company and one of the partners in the research programme. InfraMaint consists of around 20 research projects, whereof ten of these are doctoral student projects. The projects cover different topics relevant for smart maintenance of infrastructure and are categorized according to three different themes; 1) sustainable decision support, 2) sustainable business model organization, and 3) sustainable competence building. Participating in the workshop were doctoral students, supervisors and the programme management. The aim of the workshop was to get to know each other and set out the common goals and vision of the programme.

Guided tour led by Tommy Giertz at Stockholm Vatten och Avfall. Photo: Evelina Hådén

The day started with an introduction to the research programme and its overall goals. Thereafter, the participants and the different research projects were presented. Most projects are now ongoing, however, a few are still waiting for a doctoral student to be appointed (if you, or someone you know, are interested in a PhD position, please check available positions at InfraMaint’s website). The day also included a guided tour at Stockholm Vatten och Avfall’s premises, as well as a presentation of how the implementation of a digital system has made part of their operation more efficient. During the day, discussions were held on how to emphasize collaboration between the different projects and how to work with knowledge sharing. The day ended with a joint dinner to conclude the day.

The workshop ended with a joint dinner in the evening. Photo: Evelina Hådén

The following day, October 1st, InfraMaint’s yearly meet-up took place at RISE’s premises at KTH campus. The meet-up was opened to partners involved in the research programme, as well as other stakeholders interested in the programme. InfraMaint engages of a large consortium, involving universities, research institutes, and municipalities, among others. The day started with a general presentation of the programme and the current status of the different research projects. Progress and results from the programme this far were also presented. For instance, a pre-study to project 2.1 “Systems logic and business model alignment in smart maintenance of infrastructure” was done during the spring by the master’s students Emil Mårtensson and Philip Rumman at KTH. They conducted a case study at Stockholm Vatten och Avfall and their thesis “Asset management in the utility sector” presents possible challenges public utility companies face when implementing asset management principles.

During the second half of the day, digitalization was on the agenda and questions as “how do we implement digital systems?” and “how do we use available data?” were addressed. Representing the district heating industry, Magnus Ohlsson from Öresundskraft presented how they have digitalized their operation and now collect information about their systems to improve decision support. Lina Bertling Tjernberg, professor in Power Grid Technology at KTH, presented how the power grid uses databased maintenance-optimization. She emphasized that digitalization is a way to increase the value of assets, not only a way to “save money”. Lastly, Kristina Gabrielii, chairman of the board of Mistra InfraMaint, gave some inputs from the construction business. A common theme during the presentations was the importance of working with standardization.

The workshop for doctoral students and the yearly programme meet-up were two days filled with information and inspiration. The research projects within InfraMaint cover different aspects of maintenance of infrastructure, but with the common goal of a safe and available infrastructure. The days consisted of many interesting discussions and raised several relevant questions, illustrating a great interest and need for knowledge in the area. The days were a great chance to get to know other people working with smart maintenance and a possibility to share knowledge and ideas with each other. As one of the doctoral students in the research programme, I’m looking forward to continuing this project and taking part of the achievements we will accomplish together in the programme!

/Amelie Bennich
Doctoral Student at KTH, project 2.1 “Systems logic and business model alignment in smart maintenance of infrastructure” in Mistra InfraMaint

Interview with Amelie Bennich at mistrainframaint.se

The Fellowship of the Off-grid

The challenge of water and sanitation is one that unites us all around the globe. While the context may vary from country to country, we can also learn a lot from each other, as illustrated by a recent visit of Tanzanian students and professors to Värmdö.

Only 50% of Tanzania’s population of 56 million inhabitants has access to an improved source of water supply and only 34% of the population has access to improved sanitation. These kind of statistics are omnipresent in water and sanitation studies and reviews. However, the impacts of these dreadful situations are often overlooked, meaning that no follow up study to understand the daily impacts of such statistics on the population are made.

The arid climate of Tanzania renders the supply of clean, sanitary water very difficult for people unless they live near one of the three major lakes which border the country. Consequently, groundwater has become an important source of water supply in the country. The issue is that many of these groundwater wells are located in areas near toxic drainage systems (sewage/industrial waste & agricultural runoff), leaking and contaminating the groundwater. As a result, Tanzanians often turn to surface waters which often contain bacteria and human waste. A lot of people have no choice but to drink, bathe and wash their clothes in these polluted waters. The impacts of this unsafe usage of water are disastrous. According to the Tanzania National Website, water-borne illnesses (malaria, cholera, etc) account for over half of the diseases affecting the population (National Strategy on Gender and Climate Change, 2013)!

The situation in Tanzania today is far from being fixed, but the government and the population understand the importance of having access to safe water and sanitation. One of the ideas that has recently emerged is to install more decentralized off-grids water and sanitation networks. This would give access to water and sanitation to those geographically disadvantaged. It is in this context that professors and students from UDSM (University de Dar es Salaam) came to WaterCentre@KTH for a day to discuss and see examples of decentralized water networks in Stockholm’s archipelago. The newly formed off-grid water supply fellowship travelled to Värmdö municipality for the day. Although our journey was not as adventurous as Tolkien’s fellowship, water in the future will surely be as precious as the one ring, have no doubt about it.

Värmdö Municipality is comprised of a group of islands (more than 10 000 islands) to the east of Stockholm, Sweden with a population of roughly 40 000. Limited soil cover means the creation of a municipal water system is very costly. The municipality is currently undergoing a shift from seasonal to permanent residency and unprecedented growth which leads to increasing water demand. While yearly effective precipitation is sufficient to meet this demand, during the summer season very little groundwater recharge occurs, leading to local groundwater decline and environmental stresses such as salinization of groundwater due to the very low storage capacity in the hard rock. In addition, as climate change prognostics predict an increase in duration and intensity of the summer season, it is likely that this municipality will face more challenges in meeting future water demands (Robert Earon, 2019).

Now, obviously the conditions in the Swedish archipelago are quite different from that of Dar. Technology plays an important role but what works in the Swedish context might be inappropriate in Tanzania. However, there’s a lot to learn about the organisational setup in dealing with local water and environment challenges in an off-grid setting.

The first stop on the day’s itinerary was Bullandö Marina, where a small scale water treatment plant (using groundwater and seawater) and a wastewater treatment plant are currently operated by the Marina company and serving the local community. This was a good example to show how decentralized water treatment and supply was organized and managed in Varmdö.

Figure 1. Employee of the Marina & the group standing in front of the small-scale water treatment plant.

Next, the fellowship moved on to Aspvik to meet with Johan Neuman, a local entrepreneur who showed just how effective getting a local community to work together can be. This part of the municipality did not have access to the municipal water and sewage network. Rather than waiting an unknown yet certainly high number of years for the municipality to invest in connecting Aspvik to the municipal network, this local entrepreneur thought to himself “Why not just do this ourselves?”. A valid question which, in my opinion, is asked but too rarely. The municipality agreed to let the local community do this, but only if everyone in Aspvik agreed to it. In other words, every single household in the community would need to have a connexion to the network. And after only a few years of planning, organizing, digging and laying of pipes, the project was finished, resulting in the local community being connected to the municipal water and sewage network. This was a great example for students and teachers from Dar to see what a welded and organized small community can accomplish. Now one main diverging factors is the financial means of the local Aspvik community, who were able to complete this project thanks to the sizable investment made by each resident. It seems evident that small communities in Dar do not have the same financial means, yet the idea of taking matters into their own hands resonated with the professors and students.

Figure 2. Local entrepreneur explaining with passion how the project of connecting the local community to the municipal network was lead.

After a well-deserved lunch in Gustavsberg where the delegation from Tanzania was able to have a taste of Sweden’s famous fish and salad bar, the fellowship moved on to a meeting with the municipality of Värmdö. Employees from the municipality explained to everyone how the municipal water and sewage network was managed, how zones for expansions of the network were chosen, and how private wells and sewage treatment were documented and regulated. The short presentation was followed by a discussion were students and teachers asked questions and talked about the similarities and differences in the challenges met by both countries and the potential solutions.

Figure 3. Discussion with Värmdö municipality.

The final stop on our adventure was Återvall, where Robert Earon lead the fellowship on a journey through the terrain laying on top of an aquifer. He explained the hydrogeological characteristics of the aquifer and its importance for the local community. This highlighted an important aspect of water and sewage networks, the knowledge of the land. Without proper geological and hydrogeological studies, it is impossible to use an aquifer safely and to its maximum potential. This was also the occasion to mention the concept of circular water use, by explaining the managed aquifer recharge using lake water which used to take place here in Återvall.

Figure 4-5. Robert Earon explaining the hydrogeological characteristics of the aquifer.

Then came the inevitable drive home which provided ample time for students, teachers and KTH employees to further discuss and reflect on the day’s journey. Overall, I believe everyone had a really fun day and a fruitful learning experience. Now while the ring might not have been destroyed yet, the long path which lays before all of us to provide safe drinking water supply and sanitation to the world has become, maybe, just a bit clearer.

/Simon Solaro


Doeringast, Ernest. The Reform of the Water Sector in Tanzania, (2005)

Victory for Water Rights in Tanzania. Unitarian Universalist Service Committe,e (6/2/08)

WHO & UNICEF, Protecting and Promoting Human health: https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wwdrchap6p1_3.pdf

United Republic of Tanzania, Division of Environment, National Strategy on Gender and Climate Change, (2013): https://portals.iucn.org/union/sites/union/files/doc/tanzania_ccgap_original.pdf

The Curiosity that saves the world!

“Where are the French students? Some of my industry partners wants to meet them.” My colleague Joydeep, professor in nanotech, scanned the big sunny room where students from 35 countries milled around, getting ready for the thematic roundtable sessions. He had come with two of his senior researchers, a student and collaboration partners, to pick the brains of these 58 extremely smart young people. And, of course, to share his own expertise and knowledge, just like other senior KTH staff in key research areas under the large water umbrella.

At the end of the day, knowledge is not worth much unless it is shared. Moreover, knowledge or a bright idea is not enough. You also have to be able to put it into practice. This was the key purpose of our event on August 28 – “Water your idea” – that the WaterCentre@KTH organized in collaboration with SIWI, Stockholm International Water Institute.

“We don’t want to do something small. We want to save the world.” – Kristian Katholm Nielsen, Denmark

Every year, SIWI awards the Stockholm Junior Water Prize to imaginative young minds from all over the world, encouraging their continued interest in water and sustainability issues.  This year we together invited the Prize finalists from 35 countries for an inspirational day aimed at helping them to become water entrepreneurs and make a difference. All these young scientists – between 15 and 20 years old – have already made a great first effort by winning their national contests with exciting water projects, spanning from innovative bio-tech water treatment using goat hair, to recirculating shower systems. This year’s winner, Macinley Butson from Australia developed a new type of sticker to measure UV exposure for the purpose of solar disinfection of water.

“Find your inner curiosity – and stick to it!” – Mattias Wiggberg, KTH, the first SWJP winner 

During their day here at campus, Gustav Notander at KTH Innovation came with a bunch of good advice and communication tools helping them to move on with their ideas. Mattias Wiggberg, researcher at KTH and also the very first SWJP winner offered a fantastic reflection on what winning the Prize back in 1995 meant to his career, and personally. The visitors also learnt about KTH in general from our vice President Stefan Östlund, about our water activities in particular from Kerstin Forsberg, and met with our KTH “ambassadors” to hear what it is like to study here. As Mikael Östling said in his farewell speech; we want them to come back as masters students or to pursue a PhD degree!

“Water is the one thing that connects all of us – we got to do something to solve it.” – Macinley Butson, Australia

Personally, what I will remember from this day was the energy, enthusiasm, and above all the atmosphere of curiosity that sat in that big sunny room on KTH campus, arising like a gas from the meeting of a younger and an older generation of water scientists. I think it really shows in this short video from the session.

That curiosity, I think, is what will save the world.

David Nilsson, Director of WaterCentre@KTH

Framing ‘green’ water reforms: Who will be the winners and losers? Reflections from Lima, Peru.

Increasing demand for water in cities and uncertain future climatic conditions, present major water governance challenges for expanding urban areas such as the Peruvian capital Lima. Governments and policy makers are increasingly turning towards ‘greener’ approaches to address the urban water crisis. However, who will be the winners and who will be the losers in these reforms? How do we ensure that marginalised perspectives are given equal consideration?
Lima, Peru photo taken by Anderson S. Vieira@flickr, CC BY 2.0

Lima’s water problem

Lima covers nearly 3000 km2 and represents a third of Peru’s total population. The city is receiving on average less than 10 mm of rain per year, and is a coastal desert city relying on seasonal Andean flows from the wetter Andean highlands of central Peru. With the backdrop of population growth, increasing climate variability and land use change in the Andes, there are concerns over Lima’s continued reliance on Andean water sources.

Historically, Lima’s water authority response to these threats has been to invest in large-scale ‘grey’ infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs. However, the national water regulator SUNASS has now turned towards nature-based or ‘green’ approaches to water supply management. As part of this change in policy direction, SEDAPAL, Lima’s state-owned water and sewage company, is now also legally required to carry out watershed conservation projects in the highlands in order to preserve critical water resources in the interest of Lima but also in the interests of Andean communities that rely on the same resources.

The importance of scale framing

In a recent study published in in the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning titled “The development and intersection of highland- coastal scale frames: a case study of water governance in central Peruwe have used the concepts of framing and policy storylines to understand exactly how this shift in policy reform has unfolded during the reform period of 2004-2015. We set out to explore, who were the enabling actors and how did they promote a particular view of Lima’s solution to the water crisis when interacting with others?  How did that view matured in policy? Who are likely to be the winners and losers associated with these policy reforms?

Three prominent policy storylines

We have found three prominent policy storylines each of which is linked to different framings on how to achieve water security in Lima. Crucially, we find that the shift in water policy involves different players, potential winners and losers, and yet it has been thus far largely regarded as a zero sum game.

The relationship between the frame dimensions and the policy storylines (dashed lines indicate frame dimensions of secondary importance). Source, Grainger et al. 2019.

In the first policy storyline, ‘water scarcity in Lima’ is presented as an exclusively urban problem from Lima’s perspective. Depicting the city’s water supply as vulnerable. In this sense, any quest for a ‘green’ solution largely centred on water availability for Lima and the urban water users but largely missing important connections with rural water users and Andean highland ecosystems and communities.

Another storyline was formed around the ‘Compensation for Ecosystem Services mechanisms in Peruvian watersheds’. This storyline emphasised the need to consider highland-lowland relations, but nevertheless mostly for the purposes of securing lowland (urban) water challenges. Highland agricultural communities are recognised as key custodians of ecosystem services in the lowlands but other important frame dimensions such as those related to water for community agriculture are not recognised.

The ‘restoring ancestral water systems for agricultural production in Huamantanga’ policy storyline presented highland water problems caused by intensive cattle grazing. This storyline described the recent restoration of a pre-Incan infiltration canal in a highland agricultural community that has strong ties with Lima (Huamantanga). Clear references are made to the Huamantanga community not only rediscovering cultural links with ancestral practices and infrastructure, but also improving local agricultural production and livelihoods. Any potential benefits to Lima’s water supply are not at all, or only secondarily, mentioned.

Elements of all three storylines converged within NGO publications and press releases around the time SUNASS changed policy direction. As discussed in our paper:

“While not viewed as a silver bullet, combined watershed and canal restoration is presented in these articles as a low risk strategy and win-win scenario for all parties, even though the exact distribution and size of the ‘wins’ is yet to be evaluated and discussed with stakeholders in both upstream rural communities and Lima.”

View of water spring upstream of Huamantanga in the  Andean highlands close to Lima, photo by Sam Grainger

Accepting frame diversity within water governance

What we found in the Lima case is that these different policy storylines imply that water issues are framed from rather different perspectives and a range of different scales. However, often those involved in shaping these storylines, such as the water authorities, urban and rural water users, water NGOs and the media are often not aware of the types of framings and assumptions they bring into the conversation. Also not all these actors can influence policy in the same way. Some have a stronger voice than others.

As international policy shifts into new directions and we see a stronger emphasis on nature-based solutions, it is important not to lose sight of the frame diversity (the variety of views and interests) which exists within water governance. In the case of Lima, we found strong evidence for this type of frame diversity at a time when Peruvian water policy institutions are turning towards new solutions and perhaps even trying to reshape their own organisational identities. We also find missing connections between urban and rural water users and challenges in terms of how water policy can best align their different needs. Furthermore, the relationship between highland communities, urban (coastal) water supply actors and the influence of international organisations is not always straightforward even if green approaches are often presented as conclusive and uncontested amongst these various groups of actors.

It is also evident that unequal power relations between the different groups are not always considered and this entails risks because some ideas and frames may ultimately get accepted more easily in policy while others become left behind. In particular, highland Andean communities have been put at the centre of the turn towards green water infrastructures. However, we do not always find strong evidence that their framings and the realities that these represent are part of efforts to make water for Lima both greener and more secure.

Hence any policy reform needs to be connected with active dialogue that will ensure that all the actors that are actually involved in these processes are aware of how they are positioned in a complex puzzle of water governance. This is particularly important as water challenges become increasingly interconnected across scales and regions.

Sam Grainger

Researcher, Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds.

Timos Kaprouzoglou
Researcher, Division of History, Science, Technology and Environment, KTH.
Research coordinator of the WaterCentre@KTH.

Measuring water in bits and bytes

One of the workshops at the recent Water Scarcity conference at KTH was dedicated to the topic ICT for Water. ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology, and actually encompasses many engineering technologies. Most of us interpret ICT as the integration of technologies that makes it possible to store, transmit, access and process information. The main question of the workshop was how ICT could help today — to achieve sustainable use of water tomorrow?

Short keynote speeches from two large projects helped us to set the state. First, Annika Malm from RISE introduced the Mistra InfraMaint project, with the focus of smart maintenance of infrastructures in general and water infrastructure in particular. Then, Bin Xiao from Ericsson talked about Vinnova iWater, a technology project that aims at demonstrating the use of ICT to build water quality monitoring and early warning systems. The two keynotes already showed that there is a large spectrum of possible challenges and possible technologies that can fall under the umbrella of ICT for Water.

iWater. Photo: Ericsson

Workshop participants from municipalities and water authorities expressed though their doubts towards the technology push that they experience today, which showed there is a need for knowledge transfer from academia to industry and institutions– to understand the most pressing challenges towards a sustainable use of water, as well as the solutions ICT may provide. Discovering that the term pipeline means something for both communities, helped us on the way.

Privacy preserving data processing – notes from the workshop

We dedicated the rest of the time towards a small backcasting exercise. Backcasting is a planning method that first defines the desirable future, and then progresses backwards to find the first action we need to take to get there. The results of the exercise were indeed surprising for us from the ICT community. While we all can imagine that more measurements, more data analysis and digitalized control of water distribution would help to reach a more sustainable use of water in the future, it turned out that the major role of ICT today would be to establish the conditions for new investments and the availability of data.

As we learned, investments in the water sector in Sweden are sluggish because of the general belief that water comes for free.  Even if we ourselves rarely experience it, we still believe and behave as if unlimited amount of clean water would be available in a well just outside our door.  Therefore, the first task of ICT is to make the public as well as the policymakers understand the cost of clear water today and in the future, with the help of data driven modeling, prediction and visualization.

Data about water quality and availability however is highly protected, as water is a very important national resource. This may hinder the use of aggregated data from many sources, a necessity of accurate water availability modeling. ICT here can come with an important contribution. Privacy preserving communication, storage, and data analytics techniques were originally designed with individuals as users in mind, who would like to avoid sharing personal information, but still learn from common experiences of a community. The very same solutions could allow the sharing of water quality information, without revealing the location, the time and the exact nature of the measurements.

Even this short workshop demonstrated that pressing need of more discussions between the communities of water experts, and the ICT sector. To facilitate these discussions will be our foremost goal with the digitalization activities of the Water Center.

/Viktoria Fodor and Carlo Fischione