EUABOUT ATTENDS… “Water Management in development of Blue Green Cities” sponsored by the China Europe Water Platform

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On March 16, EUAbout attended the webinar “Water Management in development of Blue Green Cities “hosted by the China Europe Water Platform.

The discussion revolved around the concept of Sponge Cities, which are designed or redesigned, to use a combination of storage tunnels, permeable pavements, rain gardens, constructed ponds and wetlands to store and soak up as much extra water as possible. The importance of these Sponge Cities is crucial when it comes to managing potential floods and excessive amounts of surface water. Henrik Dissing (CEWP Coordinator for business cooperation) opened the event addressing water management as a relevant topic for both Europe and China, seen the severe weather events and flooding they are experiencing, mainly due to the effects of climate change.

Likke Leonardsen (Program Director of the City of Copenhagen) explored the issues connected to cities, water and climate change, showing the intertwining of a growing urbanization with risks coming from water availability, heat and flooding. As a consequence, in order to develop adaptation, solutions must be addressed at a double level: challenges and measures should be identified at the global policy level, while practical actions should be provided and implemented at local city level. Nonetheless, today many areas are dealing with the same issues which might lead cities to learn from measures and best practices developed elsewhere.

The importance of cooperation among countries and the exchange of Sponge Cities’ best examples was underlined in the presentation of Mads Terkelsen (Ramboll’s business area manager), who provided projects based in Denmark, China and Singapore on blue green urban development. Principles applied in those cases refer to the adoption of efficiency criteria with respect to the management of water streams, but at the same time to the creation of a recreational area contributing to increasing the value for the neighborhood.

Crucial actors in the recourse to innovative urban design are governmental bodies, as explained by Fredrick Ohls (Stockholm City Planner). As an expert of blue green systems, Ohls’ starting point is the city value of rain that is set to 20 mm in Stockholm which is contributing to the shaping of the landscape by solving the issue of intensive yearly precipitation. If regulation is simple every stakeholder will know that in the construction sector, blue green infrastructures will have to be included. As a matter of fact, enabling the building of green infiltration systems allows the use of clean water.

Improving the quality of life is the principle guiding the work of Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm specialized in natural and built assets. As stated by Jeroen Rijsdijk (principal consultant for water management and climate adaptation - Arcadis), the goal for water management infrastructures stands for the ability to minimize damage and maximize the efficiency of recovery in these kinds of disaster situations. Rijsdijk has brought as example some projects carried out in Wuhan, the Chinese city sadly famous as the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak: the ambition here was to obtain a climate-resilient city through the Sponge City model and through the design of the city itself.

In light of the relevance of the Sponge City’s concept, Dr. Frans Van de Ven supported the idea of a comprehensive approach to the water governance and the urban water systems, taking into account among others the management of groundwater, space, quality and health. In order to achieve multi-factor benefits, it is therefore necessary to plan multi-functional use and design of infrastructures, which is given only by stakeholders’ inputs and planning.

The need to resort to technological and integrated water management tools was highlighted both by Van de Ven and by Carina Almeida (Aqualogus consultant). Technological platforms contribute to providing data on meteorological forecast, water quality and quantity, soil infiltration, as well as simulation of the impact of urban activities.

A complex issue addressed by Simone Padoan (Energy Environment Global Exchange representative) refers to the remediation of heavily polluted urban areas as the Industrial Port of Venice: the conceptual model associated to a fragile and antique city consisted in the stop of the flow of water going to the contaminated sites by reusing polluted water for industrial uses and realizing soil treatments.

The debate around financial support to water management systems’ design and implementation has been fully reflected in nowadays’ global trends. As prof Chris Zevenbergen pointed out, the setting of ambitious targets in China and Europe concerning blue green systems required remarkable investments which led to a paradigm shift from a public sector financing to a public and private partnership. PPPs imply the set up of a contract between the government and the private sector for the design, delivery, and operation of the facility of infrastructure and impact positively on the projects’ affordability, better asset utilization and better value for money over the lifetime of the project. However, Partnerships do not constitute just a financing model but also promote the quality and innovation in green projects.

In conclusion, solutions at hand for adaptation consider relevant neighboring issues and need to be customized to local conditions. In this context, cities are the ones to implement solutions as those have direct responsibility towards their citizens. The situation outlined for the next future therefore entails a close exchange and cooperation between Europe and China, moving from the traditional concept of Sponge Cities to extreme events management, as well as addressing the issue of a much more sustainable financing model.

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