Project name City Water Circles - Cooperation models for enhancing water efficiency and reuse in Central European cities with an integrated circular economy approach
Objective Objective 3.1
Priority Natural and cultural resources
Aim Water stress affects one third of the EU territory all year round (EC, 2012). Though water scarcity is more pronounced in Southern Europe, it is also becoming increasingly important in other parts of Europe, including CE. Water over-abstraction is one of the main threats to the EU water environment not only in arid regions, but also at parts of CE with high population density. According to FAO AQUASTAT (2016), the municipal sector accounts for 23% of total freshwater water withdrawal in CE (whilst the global average is 12 %) and it is the largest growing sector within water consumption. At the same time, sewerage networks in many CE countries are in quite a poor condition and systems are further strained by the increasing number of extreme rainfalls induced by climate change which often lead to damaging urban flash floods and consequent water pollution.
Increasing water consumption of cities calls for adopting water saving and reuse measures to a much greater extent than current practices both in the public sector and by individuals. The traditional water retention measure, rainwater harvesting (rainwater runoff collection systems from roofs, parking lots etc.) is being recently rediscovered and founds its new relevance in urban areas of Europe, though rather in its Western parts so far. Besides, greywater (i.e. wastewater from bath, laundry and kitchen), accounting for around 50 to 80% of residential wastewater, can also be widely used for versatile purposes along with rainwater, such as urban landscape irrigation, streets cleaning, toilet flushing.
Renewing urban water use and management from a circular economy perspective offers a promising potential for municipalities on their way to sustainability: promoting and introducing different water reuse practices can bring significant environmental, social and economic benefits. Treating rainwater should be considered as an opportunity rather than a problem as its utilisation can mitigate heavy rain impacts and ease the load on drainage systems. Similarly, recycling water with establishing closed loop systems relieves pressure both on waste water treatment systems as well as water supply utilities by substituting freshwater abstraction, and thus results in decreasing energy needs, in less environmental impact, and, from an end-user perspective, in reduced water (and energy) bills.
The valuable potential of rainwater and greywater reclamation is already exploited by many southern and north-western European countries, while the uptake of water reuse solutions is still limited in most parts of CE. Lack of EU level regulations or guidance documents, low awareness of potential benefits among public authorities, relevant stakeholders and the general public, limited public institutional capacity to formulate and institutionalise reuse measures, and lack of financial incentives are the major barriers currently preventing a wider spread of these practices.
Responding to the above challenges, City Water Circles aims to introduce and promote water efficiency measures and the (re)use of non-conventional local water resources like rainwater and greywater for public and private purposes in order to reduce water consumption and alleviate pressure on over-exploited water resources of CE cities. Recognising that cities can be the main drivers and focal points of circular water use revolution, the project will equip the involved CE municipalities with improved capacities for coordinating and facilitating the implementation of sustainable decentralised water (re)use systems by creating supportive and coherent regulatory, organisational and operational frameworks integrated with the existing environmental management and urban planning systems. All these efforts will be accompanied by strong stakeholder engagement and participatory processes resulting in new forms of partnerships backed by innovative cooperative arrangements between public authorities, public service providers and private stakeholders like businesses, non-profit organisations and citizens.
Results The following main project outputs are envisaged:
• Transnational guidelines for circular urban water use on different scales (municipal, neighbourhood, building) incorporating innovative technology portfolios; alternative policy instruments such as regulatory incentives and mandates (e.g. green procurement, standards for installation of water saving devices and reuse systems in new construction buildings), financial incentives (e.g. taxation); smart cross-sectoral organisational, collaborative management and business models built on participatory methods and shared responsibility; efficient public awareness raising and informal education tools for improving public attitude on water efficiency and water saving issues (as a final project output);
• Practical training material for public authorities and service providers, also including participatory (water) governance methods, relying on a knowledge inventory on best innovative practices and policies of urban water efficiency and (re)use;
• Local strategies for circular urban water use/ water efficiency action plan incorporating the elements of the above guidelines tailor-made to local needs and challenges, relying on a common manual also replicable in other CE cities;
• Open innovation platforms for exploring new, creative technologies and grassroots initiatives tackling collaborative management practices related to urban water reuse;
• Local pilot actions initiating institutionalised stakeholder cooperation frameworks/ models implementing and maintaining specific, place-based urban water efficiency and rainwater/ greywater reuse actions. Novel multi-stakeholder management schemes will be built and tested, relying on shared responsibility between 1) public authorities and 2) different sectors/ actors such as a) public service providers/ water infrastructure companies, b) businesses (enterprises, investors) and c) non-profit organisations and/ or community groups (e.g. inhabitants of housing estates, neighbourhood groups etc.).
As a direct effect of the project, public authorities and related entities, along with relevant stakeholders of the involved regions will gain improved human, institutional and management capacities in the field of water resources management which is a key and integral part of environment management. Implementation of novel water (re)use measures backed by dynamic public-private dialogue and new collaborative platforms will foster to enhance water efficiency, operate the existing water infrastructure more sustainably and improve water quality, which will significantly contribute to the protection and conservation, and thus the long term sustainable use of the region’s precious water resources.
Cost Approx. EUR 2,2 M
Duration 36 months
Partners involved City of Budapest, District 14 Zugló Municipality (LP)
Partners requested Cities or capital districts with a population of more than 50.000 people
Regional development agencies
Knowledge institutions with expertise in water reuse, Green Infrastructure and social innovation (participatory techniques)
Innovation Introducing rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse schemes in public or residential buildings is quite an untapped potential in many CE cities, therefore promoting these solutions by City Water Circles would deliver a clear benefit for the region. Besides exploring and diffusing smart technologies partly through open innovation platforms, the project will also address social innovation by exploring and implementing novel cooperation forms with empowering communities in the field of water resources management.
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