Dimitris: “The water sector suffers from silo thinking”

Photo: EJWP

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Dimitris Kofinas from the University of Thessaly in Greece is participating in the third group of the European Junior Water Programme (EJWP). He is sharing his experiences on Water News Europe. According to Dimitris the water sector, and its interlinked sectors, such as energy, environment, and health, suffer from silo thinking. “We need to bridge collaborations, create networks, adapt holistic approaches and explore synergies.”

What are the benefits of an international water-sector network?

“The benefits are multiple. I would distinguish the opportunity to understand how things are happening in different countries. This is very important, especially in these times, because climate change brings new challenges in all regions. In Greece, for example, we have more storm water incidents in our cities. We need to exploit the existing knowledge and experience from northern countries in Europe, rather than to reinvent the wheel for our own needs. A good water network can catalyze mutual international capacity building and exchanges of experience.”

How are you building networks with EJWP?

EJWP offers three networking channels: First of all, there is networking with the other participants and trainers; second, the ecosystems of the projects’ clients and stakeholders; and third, through synergies at networking events. Naomi Timmer, the EJWP director, is especially talented in exploiting such synergies for the EJWP participants’ benefit.”

What can better-connected international water professionals mean for water sector organisations?

“In my opinion, connection is an absolute necessity. The water sector, and its interlinked sectors, such as energy, environment, and health, suffer from silo thinking. We need to bridge collaborations, create networks, adapt holistic approaches and explore synergies. Only by integrated efforts, intersectoral, interdisciplinary and international, do we stand a chance facing all the multiple rising environmental challenges.

What and where is your current work position?

I currently work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Civil Engineering department of the University of Thessaly, in central Greece, in the research team of Professor Chrysi Laspidou, who is also an EJWP Ambassador. I am involved in several EU-funded projects relevant to water resources management, the water-energy-food nexus, climate adaptation and mitigation, urban resilience and sustainability, such as ARSINOE, NEXOGENESIS, MAGO and SMARTEN. My main expertise is in the modelling of water systems and management of water resources.

I am also the co-leader of a NEXUSNET (Cost Action) working group, on nexus applications and case studies, as well as affiliated with AE4RIA, the Alliance of Excellence for Research and Innovation on Aephoria. I also hold lectures on wastewater treatment, ecological engineering and urban water management.”

What value are you bringing to your organization and career from your EJWP journey?

“EJWP offers extremely valuable insight in the international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaborative work around water issues. Our projects are taking place in various settings, different themes and with various roles, while at the same time we have the unique opportunity to get feedback from our EJWP colleagues and trainers on what went wrong and what went right with our performance. It is revealingly useful to get such feedback. “

What is a memorable experience with EJWP so far?

“I recall a dinner in a nice Moroccan tavern during our recent Training Week in Mechelen, Belgium. There was an anti-war protest outside that had just finished. A lady from the protest came in and offered us origami swans of different colors that she had made herself. We had quite a symbol there at our table. Diversity can be a real strength in collaborations. Another moment I also enjoyed was my participation in a panel on water circular economy, at the World Impact Summit in Bordeaux. It was a very interesting discussion. “

What have you already learned or developed in knowledge or skills?

“Our first project gave us the opportunity to explore tools for unconventional data sources, such as the Web and social media. I feel there is great potential there, as well as in citizen science, especially when considering that there is often a gap in water and environmental data. So, there is all this technical knowledge that comes with the projects, but there is also a lot that you learn on how to improve your communication skills and collaboration with people of completely different backgrounds.”

Where and in which position would you like to be working in five years?

“Ideally, in five years, I imagine myself owing a beach bar on a peaceful island, preparing Margaritas all day long with the sounds of Bossa Nova, under the Mediterranean sun. Don’t we all?

More seriously, I would love to offer my services in a high-level research position around water resources management, where one can also work in the interfaces with other fields. I would be exited to work on the osmosis mechanisms we need to develop between the technical solutions, and the social innovations, the policy making, the financial instruments, but also cultural aspects. This is also why I have tried to keep my training and working experience as broad as possible. The place doesn’t really matter to me, however I do feel that Europe is my home.”

What did you study?

“I received my Civil Engineering integrated master’s degree at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (UTH), Greece. My second master’s is in System Simulation and Design of Civil Engineering Works from UTH. I also had attended training in environmental flows at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. My PhD thesis was on advanced tools for urban water demand simulation and forecasting at multiple spatio-temporal scales, with the scientific supervision of Professor Chrysi Laspidou.”

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