Urban development imposes an increased pressure on existing urban water infrastructure (water supply, wastewater, stormwater), while at the same time existing infrastructure and its expandability represents a critical factor for urban development. Increasing urban water demand, and increasing requirements for levels of service, coupled with uncertain water availability (incl. the potentially increasing occurrence of droughts) leads to water scarcity situations – especially in the Southern EU and Mediterranean countries. This mismatch between supply and demand is usually met with increasingly sophisticated and energy consuming, mostly centralized, infrastructures and often requires the transport of water from remote catchments, with potentially severe disruption to local ecosystems.
Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) studies, undertaken at the EU level, including the ClimWaterAdapt project currently undertaken by DG Environment, suggest that in view of key drivers, such as population growth (incl. migration) and the potential for significant changes in climatic conditions, there is a growing concern that water scarcity will become a major socioeconomic issue in the next decades. On the other hand, it has been suggested that savings of up to 40% can be achieved at the EU level, hence decreasing the vulnerability of populations to water scarcity conditions but there is no specific guidance on how this saving can be achieved.
There is a growing consensus that interventions on the urban water cycle are necessarily associated with local characteristics and constraints (geomorphology, water courses, rainfall patterns) but also importantly the characteristics of the urban environment (occupancy, building density, socio-economic mix, cultural habits etc). This implies an interdisciplinary approach that combines social, economic and natural sciences and more specifically urban and regional
Hydropolis will investigate the bidirectional relationship between urban growth and urban water infrastructure, emphasising on the effect of urban development forms on possible alternative water management technologies. The research will focus on decentralised water management technologies and solutions, such as grey water recycling, rainwater harvesting, sustainable urban drainage systems, and their combined application is going to be analysed in conjunction with urban growth and existing water infrastructure. The aim of this research is the shift from conventional urban models to a more efficient and environmentally friendly paradigm. The tools/integrated models developed for this research are going to be tested in existing urban areas for the investigation of potential benefits from the application of new technologies, as well as in the design of hypothetical new urban developments together with urban development models under appropriate environmental and socio-economic scenarios/constraints. Distributed infrastructure management is also investigated through an integrated framework employing sensor technology. The pilot application analysis aims at the development of an urban growth typology with associated water management technologies.
Beyond the State-of-art
The proposed research will ensure a significant progress in the understanding of interactions between urban development and water resources management – and urban water management in particular. These interactions are of key importance to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean and to Greece in particular, whose urban areas are both vulnerable to floods and droughts.
The project will deliver new innovative technologies for urban water management (including rain and grey water recycling and reuse) customized to fit the Mediterranean environment, thus enhancing the applicability of these technologies in arid countries around the Mediterranean.
The proposed research is also innovative at the European/International level: the work proposed in terms of the links between urban water management and energy, but also in terms of the issue of acceptability and adoption of such technologies by end-users is of particular importance as a criterion for the successful deployment of (currently much hyped but as yet untested) decentralized technologies and practices. This is because recent research has shown (Makropoulos et al., 2010) that there is a clear trade-off between land allocation, water demand reduction and energy demand which needs to be considered when planning for large scale deployment of water technologies, beyond the prototype scale. The very definition of decentralization (being away from central command and control mechanisms and thus closer to end users – more often than not actually within the very houses of end user) means that socio-economic and cultural context needs to be studied and then incorporated into the design and deployment phase (Panebianco and Pahl-Wostl, 2006; Mitchell et al., 2008).
Unfortunately the nature of socio-economic and cultural context is too society-specific and thus initial work already undertaken in Western Europe, the US and Australia cannot be simply transferred “as it is” to the Greek (and Mediterranean) conditions. This requires that the research has to be undertaken for the first time in Greece , through a context–sensitive methodology.
Finally, the new tools to be developed in this work (linking advanced urban development models with intelligent, flexible urban water management and option selection models) will allow for a more optimized (and context-aware) deployment of technologies and ultimately improve the water saving potential for Europe.
Hydropolis will offer feasible ways of rationalizing existing regimes of water usage (tap water, grey water, rain water) through the use of appropriate technologies, which scale down and localize the management of water. These deliverables offer practical, yet holistic, technological solutions with regard to everyday practice while redefining what is utilizable water. Its emphasis on grey-water recycling in various scales of decentralization (household, block of flats, neighborhood, etc.) is a factor that increases the environmental, economic and societal incentives for adopting the environmental solutions offered by the “Hydropolis” project.
The savings expected on natural resources (primarily water, but also energy) create precious opportunities for the spatial redeployment of these resources. Thus, apart from satisfying social needs in more efficient and rational ways the deliverables of “Hydropolis” easily lend themselves as tools for regional development. Individual households, local communities, but also industry, constitute the natural target groups adopting this new generation of environmental infrastructure in the global green economy.
The project will create a database containing technical data about water technologies that will be open to the scientific community, tools for optimum technology selection, simulation models coupling water management with urban development to be used in new designs at a local and international level, publicity tools for spreading the concepts of decentralized water reuse in society and prototype physical installations that can be used both for research and teaching purposes.
The benefits for Education are multiple and include the development of new curricula in several different disciplines, specialized technical seminars, teaching tools and artifacts, and experimental setups for physical and virtual labs. The project will support the fulfillment of a PhD thesis, and a number of postgraduate diploma thesis. There will be 7 research journal publications and 8 conference presentations.
Last but not least the project will enhance the existing synergies between the collaborating multidisciplinary teams and expand them in the fields of sustainable water management while in parallel spreading these concepts to society.