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When the fourth water and digital revolution encountered COVID-19


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is, undeniably, a substantial shock to our civilization which has revealed the value of public services that relate to public health. Ensuring a safe and reliable water supply and maintaining water sanitation has become ever more critical during the pandemic. For this reason, researchers and practitioners have promptly investigated the impact associated with the spread of SARS-CoV-2 on water treatment processes, focusing specifically on water disinfection. However, the COVID-19 pandemic impacts multiple aspects of the urban water sector besides those related to the engineering processes, including sanitary, economic, and social consequences which can have significant effects in the near future. Furthermore, this outbreak appears at a time when the water sector was already experiencing a fourth revolution, transitioning toward the digitalisation of the sector, which redefines the Water-Human-Data Nexus. In this contribution, a product of collaboration between academics and practitioners from water utilities, we delve into the multiple impacts that the pandemic is currently causing and their possible consequences in the future. We show how the digitalisation of the water sector can provide useful approaches and tools to help address the impact of the pandemic. We expect this discussion to contribute not only to current challenges, but also to the conceptualization of new projects and the broader task of ameliorating climate change.

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