MoRE2020 researcher Karin Sjöstrand explores the great societal challenge of water management
2018 was the third year in a row that Sweden suffered from drought. Last year, the water shortage was particularly difficult and much indicates that we are going against a fourth summer of drought.
"The water is our most important food and we therefore need to think about how we use the water that exists. Managing water is a major challenge for society", says Karin Sjöstrand, who is a researcher within the field of water scarcity.
Karin Sjöstrand's research is about developing and applying methods that can be used to counteract water shortages.
Water supply varies
"Sweden generally has a good supply of water. But both access and need for water vary across the country. In areas with water shortages, it is important to work widely in order to counteract negative consequences for society and the environment, ”says Karin.
The municipalities are responsible for the production of drinking water and can therefore make great efforts to increase the general water supply. But is the only solution to water scarcity to produce more drinking water? Or are there savings alternatives that are just as good or better from a social perspective? Karin has studied how to compare different kinds of measures from different sectors of society in order to create a common basis for decisions.
"In my studies, I have analyzed how measures in agriculture stand against municipal measures as well as measures carried out by industry, the hospitality industry and households. The municipalities included, among other things, artificial groundwater formation, increased ground and surface water extraction and desalination. For agriculture, for example, it was about adjustable dam in ditches and irrigation ponds. For private individuals, the studies have dealt with measures such as rainwater collection, small-scale desalination and vacuum toilets. For industry and the tourism sector, it has been about water-saving technology and water recycling, ”says Karin.
Gotland is affected
Region Västra Götaland's (VGR) research program MoRE2020 contributes with funding for the parts of the research carried out by Karin Sjöstrand on water shortages on Gotland (Gotland is an island in the Baltic Sea). Gotland is particularly affected by drought because the soil layers on the island are thin, and a large part of the rainwater flows directly into the Baltic Sea without being able to be used first. That Gotland is an island contributes to the difficulties, as there is no nearby municipality that can help with the water supply during dry periods. Tourism also means that the need for water varies considerably during the year and most of the water is required in the summer, when the water supply is at its lowest.
The aim is that the results of the research carried out with Gotland's water shortage as a starting point should be able to be used also in other parts of the country so that we can stand better prepared for water shortages and drought in the future.
Text: Maria Winther
Translation by: Lina Waara