Water management – it’s time to act!

Gospodarowanie wodami

September 26-28, 2023. STORMWATER Poland conference was held in Katowice, with water management as the main topic. This is the seventh edition of the, this time thematically directed at quality in climate change adaptation initiatives for rainwater and snowmelt management, hence its title “Adaptation with Quality!”. Quality is understood here in a multifaceted way and refers to the planning and implementation of solutions for rational, sustainable management of rainwater and snowmelt, as well as understanding the need to meet normative requirements regulated by national and European legislation when discharging water and wastewater to receiving bodies. Participants of the conference (of which there were more than 320), thanks to speakers, both from Poland and abroad, received a large dose of practical knowledge.

Water management – contemporary challenges

As heard at the conference, the “water challenges,” which revolve around three issues, viz. Too little water (droughts), too much water (flooding and waterlogging), and water that is too polluted (requiring treatment), are similar around the world. Only their scale and ways of solving them are changing. Today, urban stormwater and snowmelt management, supported by green-blue infrastructure systems, requires a holistic (systemic) approach in planning, execution and operation.

The implementation of activities of this nature should be carried out on many levels, so by raising the awareness of residents, the development of public participation (social aspect), mobile collection of monitoring data, the use of new information technologies, such as artificial intelligence, hydrodynamic and meteorological models, flood early warning systems (technical aspect) and the search for funding sources (economic aspect). Based on the numerous good practices presented, including. from Milan, London, New York, Poznan or Gliwice, it is clear that the rational management of rainwater on the site of a rainfall event is to protect resources and thus provide a healthier space for residents. Sustainable stormwater management requires bottom-up initiatives, from residents or municipalities. Good solutions emerge when interdisciplinary teams, consisting of engineers, landscape architects, hydrologists, sociologists, planners, etc., are involved in the decision-making process.

Water management and extreme events

Extreme phenomena are part of nature, Slavco Velickov said in his speech, and we need to learn how to protect infrastructure and the environment from them. Digital tools offered, among others, can help. by Bentley, Innovyze by Autodesk, SCALGO or RetencjaPL. Their calculation modules increasingly take into account SPRIM solutions, or urban surface retention systems, which include. Rain gardens or green roofs. The former was mentioned by Joanna Rays, emphasizing the importance of taking ecosystem services into account and keeping in mind the dynamics of change that is inherent in the essence of SPRIM. Julia Machado of Wavin and Edyta Sierka of the University of Silesia also spoke about the latter.

The place of rivers in water management

Rivers are also important in cities. However, in order not to be treated merely as a “watercourse” or even as an “obstacle,” “sewer” or “embarrassment,” as Blanka Romanowska of GZM said, they should be more accessible to residents. Through the development of waterfronts (e.g., bike paths, bridges and observation bridges, etc.), a network of connections between residents and water is created, while sensitizing them to the beauty of nature and the need to protect river water. This is evidenced by the examples presented at the conference of waterfront development in Copenhagen, Zurich, Dortmund, Canada or Lithuania.

Water management is also about protecting rivers, enforcing care for the good quality of the water flowing in them. After the catastrophe on the Oder River, as Tobias Menzel of OTT Hydromet mentioned in his speech, we are even more aware of the importance of online water monitoring. It is also important to analyze “upward” trends in quality parameters based on measurement data in order to react as quickly as possible to negative phenomena and thus prevent more serious disasters. Protection of water from pollution can also be provided by runoff treatment solutions, i.e. Amiblu retention chamber with Amiscreen system, presented by Dirk Landrock of Amiblu Germany GmbH.

Water management in projects

Rational management of rainwater in cities should be supported by documents of a strategic or planning nature, as well as the implementation of projects financed from own funds (budget) or from external sources. Examples include the studies mentioned by the speakers, i.e. the Strategy for Management of Rainwater and Meltwater for the City of Poznań or the Flood Safety Program for the Piaseczno municipality.

Documents of this type are helpful in selecting areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate change and in planning measures that can minimize its consequences. An example of obtaining funding is the project mentioned here by Stephan Treuke, entitled KliMaWerk – Sustainable management of the landscape water balance to increase climate resilience: management and tools, in which an additional 25% was planned to be sealed off. city surfaces by 2040. Conference participants learned about funding opportunities for green retention investments from Anna Czyzewska of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.

Flooding and waterlogging as a result of anthropogenic activities

As Klaus Piroth said, the period after a flood is the period before the next flood, so you need to be ready for that event. To this end, flood mapping is performed at CDM Smith. A flash flood audit is also being conducted, with interviews with the public, and advisories are being published. Precipitation analyses and forecasts are made based on the Kostra-DWD 2010 atlas.

Managing rainwater in a planned and organized manner in post-mining areas, such as Bytom, is fraught with additional difficulties. As a result of catchment sealing, numerous waterlogging events occur even after rainfall with a frequency of occurrence of once a year. The construction of retention reservoirs there is often determined by nature itself, as rainwater runoff accumulates in places where the land has been lowered as a result of mining damage, for example. On the other hand, Upper Silesia is the site of an intensive search for ways to increase the adaptation of cities to climate change by exploiting the potential of natural processes in Novel Ecosystems, as mentioned by Edyta Sierka of the University of Silesia.

Developing ecosystems, such as in post-mining basins in Upper Silesia, can improve water retention and quality. Experiments with selected plant species from post-mining areas were transferred to green roofs to find out whether these plants would have an equally good effect on retention elsewhere.

Water management

New ways to improve water quality

Water management is also wastewater management. The presentation of the legal status in Poland, based on national and European legislation, illustrated the change in quality requirements and testing of pollution parameters. New requirements, such as microplastic removal, are forcing manufacturers to bring innovative solutions to market to meet regulatory requirements. Examples include the drainfix clean substrate channel and sportfixdrain slotted troughs presented by Hauraton and Hauraton Poland, as well as water treatment technologies discussed by Bartlomiej Nowakowicz of BGW Medical.

It is worth noting, however, that with the current state of the law, regulations on the quality of rainwater and snowmelt are not sufficient, as most of them protect only rivers (receiving bodies), and do not apply to rainwater and snowmelt in local use, as mentioned by Aneta Citko of WKB Lawyers. Nature Based Solutions (NBS) can also help improve stormwater quality, but practices to date usually do not perform water quality studies before designing a system for local retention or infiltration. This is due, according to Thomas Glixella of RetencjaPL, to legal loopholes in this area.

In turn, changes in European legislation, including the provisions of Directive 91/271 on sewage treatment and disposal, a draft of which was published on October 26, 2022. will have an impact, Bartosz Łuszczek of the City of Krakow Waterworks reported, on the operation of water and sewerage companies. Increasing quality requirements, such as for the removal of pharmaceuticals from wastewater, may force the need for another treatment stage at wastewater treatment plants.

Debate at the end of STORMWATER Poland

At the end of the conference, an Oxford debate was held to decide whether giving legal personality to the Vistula would avoid a disaster of the magnitude of the Oder River. Participants included Jerzy Bieluk (legal counsel Bieluk and Partners), Jacek Engel (Greenmind Foundation), Cecylia Malik (Sisters of the Rivers), Leszek Naziemiec (traveler), Agata Szafraniuk (ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi), Zbigniew Kledyński and Anna Sosnowska (Warsaw University of Technology) and Janusz Zaleski (Wroclaw University of Technology), as well as people from the floor who wanted to ask a question or provide information in the debate. Each participant was persuasive, each had his own arguments.

However, many questions and doubts still remain, perhaps because it is still a new issue in Poland. No river in our country has legal personality, but experience abroad shows that it is possible. Although opinions were divided until the end of the debate and it is difficult to clearly indicate who was right, there is no doubt that the debate was an opportunity to think and ask questions: What can be done to make the river “feel” better?

STORMWATER Poland a source of factual and practical knowledge

In conclusion, it can be said that the STORMWATER POLAND 2023 conference was an opportunity to exchange experiences and discussions among a wide range of specialists, including designers, technical infrastructure managers, officials, scientists, as well as manufacturers and sales representatives of equipment and solutions for monitoring, execution and modernization of rainwater and snowmelt runoff management systems. It was also a time to learn about the innovative solutions that have been introduced to the market to better match the growing quality and technological requirements.

This is also the time to observe the pace of development of new digital tools and their implementation for planning, monitoring of quantitative and qualitative parameters, as well as hydrodynamic modeling of systems for rainwater management. In addition to gaining factual knowledge, participants were able to replenish the shelves of their industry libraries with specialized studies, published in the form of green-blue infrastructure catalogs, equipment technical sheets and system design and implementation guides. It remains to be hoped that the knowledge gained at the conference will translate into wise management of rainwater and snowmelt, which we will have the opportunity to hear about in future editions of STORWATER POLAND.