Innovative solutions to solve city water shortages
The rise in the number of people living in cities - predicted to reach 80 % by 2020 - coupled with climate change is straining Europe's water supplies. An EU-funded project has demonstrated innovative technologies and approaches to tackle water scarcity.
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Assuring the supply of water to Europes cities will be a tough challenge as urban populations rise, demand grows and climate change affects the supply. The EU-funded DESSIN project has demonstrated innovative solutions for ensuring Europe has adequate water quality and supply to meet its needs.
At five demonstration sites in cities in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Greece and Spain, the project tested integrated technological, monitoring, modelling and management approaches. The demonstrations aim to encourage Europes water sector to become more resource-efficient and competitive through innovation.
The project also developed a framework for assessing the changes to water bodies brought about by its solutions, as well as the economic, environmental and social value these provide known as ecosystem services (ESS).
The projects ESS toolkit allows decision-makers to assess the value of provision services, (e.g. food and water), supporting services (e.g. pollination and climate regulation) and cultural services (e.g. aesthetic value and recreation) when proposing and comparing water supply solutions.
By adopting this approach, we are able to demonstrate how innovative solutions integrated in the water cycle can increase the value of the services provided by freshwater ecosystems. This can help drive their market uptake, says project coordinator David Schwesig of IWW Water Centre in Germany.
Sparking innovation and competitiveness
Each of the cities selected for the demonstrations represent some of the worlds major water scarcity challenges. They were built in Emscher, Germany; Hoffselva in Norways Oslo area; the region of Westland in the Netherlands; Athens in Greece; and Llobregat in Spains Barcelona area.
This approach will support innovation and competitiveness in water management by enabling a more informed selection of the most promising solutions, regarding their impact on the water body and their economic implications, says Schwesig.
DESSIN demonstrations include:
In Athens, the project focused on water re-use for non-drinkable uses like watering city parks and urban agriculture. Water re-use in cities is currently rare, and the recycling facilities that do exist for are usually installed next to large sewage treatment plants that can be far away from where re-used water is needed.
DESSIN aims to help turn the current situation around by creating water recycling technologies that can be installed even in the heart of dense urban areas.
The project has developed a compact decentralised water re-use system that can be installed in an urban neighbourhood. Called sewer mining, the system can provide recycled water for numerous uses, including watering nearby parks and hydroponic plant growing systems.
The idea is to provide reclaimed water by extracting wastewater from the sewage system, treating it at the point of demand, and, in some cases, returning treatment residuals back to the sewer system, says Christos Makropoulos, coordinator of the pilot sewer miner in Athens, Greece, and a professor at the National Technical University of Athens.
Sewer mining can provide re-used water on-demand using compact technology tailored to end-user needs; and units can even be placed underground, he adds.
The pilot consists of a compact sewage treatment unit with a membrane bioreactor and reverse osmosis technology, as well as information communication technology that allows it to be operated remotely and monitored and managed in real time.
The system which has been up and successfully running for over a year on the premises of the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) is being used for the irrigation of a small park.
Technology particularly suited to Southern Europe
The pilot project has since attracted the attention of Greek technology companies keen to develop more urban sewage treatment systems, and the City of Athens itself, which is looking at opportunities to use the technology to irrigate other urban green spaces.
Our technology is particularly suited to the more water-scarce regions of Europe in the South and the Mediterranean, where re-used water could be used to irrigate urban green spaces, improving the quality of life for urban dwellers during the hot summer months, says Makropoulos.
The technology also has benefits for the local economy since SMEs using the technology can sell irrigation services to city municipalities. Meanwhile, water companies can benefit from selling untreated sewage to these SME service providers.
DESSINs technology has already been recognised: EYDAP participated in the European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE), submitting the DESSIN sewer mining pilot as its green technology of the year; the company was awarded two prizes: the Products & Services Award and the Business & Biodiversity Award.