Wetskills-USA 2023, by Mila Avellar Montezuma (IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education)

The hot-start of the WetSkills-USA (UN) 2023 happened today, symbolically placed in South African Embassy, a ‘cell’ of the United Nations. Watched by Nelson Mandela’s images, the settting provoked talented young professionals to think outside the box. Multiple perspectives from America, Africa, Asia and Europe were combined this morning in Manhattan. The goal of the week is to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals and the team(s) are very much aligned, enthusiastic and focused on it.

Today’s highlights included side-discussions on topics from Africa and Brazil geopolitics; coffee all around the world and Aya’s birthday… and a bit of a sweet flavor from the Middle East, thanks to some cookies brought by Loay.

While the pragmatic-day started with a round-table introduction; followed by meting the case owners; lunch in international food (middle east Mexican food). Moreover, under the light of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same mindset we created them”, the afternoon began with brainstorming on the specific case studies:

Danika, Tim and Adele, representatives of group 1, are reflecting on Artificial Glaciers for water conservation in mountains, they are reviewing an ancestral water storage technique in rural India and are now discussing on how to scale it up. They are composed of 3 face-to-face and 4 online participants.

Group 2, composed by Aya, Thaiane and Dan, are analyzing solutions from Plastic collection & recycling system. The three of them are quite focused on how to implement the existing project in South Africa. The idea is to go beyond the plastic soup, advancing on solutions > research started previously by the case owner process. Therefore, it’s mainly a matter of put everyone on the same page and continue with the product


Sannah, Ayman and I (Mila), responsible for case study 3, Rainwater harvesting systems for resilient cities, are focusing on how to innovate a pluvial water storage for drinking water during the rainy season, decreasing the urban flood risk and providing potable water during draught periods. Artificial Intelligence is being considered to optimize this challenge.


Concerning Nature based solutions in water treatment processes, Group 4, Meinke, Samah, and Ayanda, is diving into the use of algae to advance in the state of art of these organisms in the function of bio salinization.


Last but not least, Group 5, Lester, Steven, Reeta are advancing on Smart technologies in water analysis, with a pilot plan in the Philippines. Sometimes a hard topic to fully understand, so it was a moment to create a baseline for the group.


Later in the afternoon, we did an insightful personality investigation to understand how to best contribute in each team – ironically, there were no finishers in any groups, which made us wonder how any of us would be able to conclude the week (haha!). The main task of the day was to create an action plan per case study to strategize the deliverables. Today were a fruitful day and tomorrow we are looking forward to take the ideas to a next level while debating with the experts.

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