Transitions towards more Sustainable Concepts of Urban Water Management

Climate change, sea level rise, land subsidence and an increasing demand for building and recreational space are all forcing countries such as the Netherlands to drastically change their views on water management. TU Delft is developing concepts that potentially make cities more self-supporting, while at the same time decreasing their vulnerability to climate change.

Water management
During the past few decades, there has been a shift in Dutch water management from simply draining the water away as quickly as possible, to creating space for water retainment, managing water quality and supply and reducing flood risks. Most cities’ water supplies, however, still rely on external water resources. As urban areas are expanding, the pressure on rural areas and their water supply is increasing. Furthermore, due to climate change, the variations in rainfall will increase, which means cities will become more vulnerable to droughts. That is why researchers at TU Delft are looking at ways to more efficiently handle our water resources and use local, urban sources of water, energy and food.

Floating city
One of our concepts for sustainable urban water management is the so-called Floating City, a self-supporting city made of floating dome-like structures that are linked to each other by floating pedestrian bridges and a floating motorway that connects it to existing cities. Large blocks of polystyrene foam, connected by a frame of special, high strength concrete are used as floating devices, allowing the cities to be located in shallow waters. The entire city has its own infrastructure. Each dome contains multiple dwellings, which are low in energy use due to various technological solutions, such as the air circulation within the dome and the use of water saving showers and toilets. In addition, the floating city does not compromise the location’s water storage and discharge ability.

Practical use
The urban water surface can also be used to function as a source of drinking water and as energy source. For instance, heat can be withdrawn from the surface water and stored in the ground before it is used to heat buildings. Not only does this reduce the surface water temperature, leveling out the temperature increase caused by climate change, it also significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Another concept is the use of rainwater as a source of drinking water. We are currently developing our innovative concepts in three Dutch cities.

Several TU Delft PhD and MSc students, as well as staff members are involved in this research project. Internationally, we closely collaborate with various related projects, such as the SWITCH project (Unesco IHE) and the British Water and new Developments (WanD) project, several universities and a large number of Dutch institutions. The social viability of our concepts and the transition process required to realize this context is being researched in cooperation with Rotterdam’s Erasmus University and Monash University Melbourne. 


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