The SUEZ Working for Water call for projects, launched on 10 September 2015, invites associations, researchers, entrepreneurs and individuals to present innovative initiatives and solutions to preserve resources; the winners will receive funding and support from SUEZ experts. Project proposals must address five key challenges that have been identified. This article, the fourth in a five-part series, investigates how we can better plan for water-related challenges in urban developments. Credit: SUEZ
Whereas the 20th century saw the utmost done to remove water from towns and cities – with rivers curbed, the ground paved over and the water cycle halted – the 21st century is seeing water reintroduced into urban planning as concreting gives way to green spaces. What is the aim? For towns and cities to be transformed via the smart and sensible management of water resources so as to provide their residents with a better quality of life.
Nature in the heart of the city
With urbanisation continuing apace – half of the world’s population is currently classed as urban with the UN estimating that 66% of people will be living in towns and cities by the year 2050 – rural populations are on the decline as people favour urban and suburban areas and the economic activity found there. Beyond the feelings of well-being brought about by having green spaces, nature also provides – especially in towns and cities – for the ecological functions of the ecosystem: plants add moisture to the surrounding air, provide a natural air-conditioning system through water-loss, absorb dust and pollutants as well as produce oxygen. Although they have often been criticised for being water-hungry, plants are currently making a big comeback. Smart sprinkling is allowing nature to take back the centre stage within urban planning whilst still providing for the conservation of water resources.
Find out what Joëlle de Villeneuve, Head of Sustainable Development for SUEZ’s water activities in France, thinks about the presence of water in towns and cities: Credit: SUEZ
Water-management, flood risks and safety
Improving how water is integrated into urban planning also means successfully anticipating the risk of flooding. As well as improving the quality of life for residents, the aim is to ensure their safety. The increase of impermeable surfaces such as streets, pavements and buildings reduces the natural infiltration of rainwaters into the ground by 85%. The result? An increased risk of flooding and pollution in the surrounding environment due to run-off waters. This is another area where nature can play a key role, as the solutions adopted by China via
its « Sponge Cities » programme show: within the next three years, 16 pilot cities will boast new green spaces, green rooves, absorbent ground surfaces and wetlands to encourage the infiltration and water flow of rainwaters. In France, an environmental management system for Marseille’s urban streams, which particularly aims to ensure their full hydraulic flow capacity when it rains, has been put in place by the city and its operator, SERAM. Innovative smart-water technologies provide for optimum, pro-active management in the event of heavy rainfall. As such, the INFLUX solution developed by SUEZ prevents the wastewater network’s storage capacity from becoming saturated during periods of intense rainfall. By consolidating meteorological, metrological, hydrological and hydraulic data, it dynamically manages the operation of the wastewater system by redirecting rainwater flows to the available infrastructure at the right place and at the right time.
How to combine more restrained use of water resources with making water more visible in our towns and cities: this is the additional challenge linked to water in urban planning and it is at the heart of the Action for Water Resources call for projects.
Find all the information on the Action for Water Resources call for projects in this video: Credit: SUEZ
You can download the call for projects rules here and the application pack here.
The final selection will be made and the winner(s) announced in March 2016. The total annual budget for the call for projects is €100,000.
The jury, co-chaired by Bertrand Camus, CEO of SUEZ’s water business in France, and Serge Lepeltier, Chairman of the Académie de l’Eau and former French Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development, will include representatives from various institutions, universities and associations, as well as leading figures from within the company.
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