Local initiatives to secure water supply in Europe

Europe is not spared

Water scarcity is an increasingly frequent phenomenon

Europe is home to 13% of the world’s population, and around 8% of the world’s water resources are found here. Water is supplied to 97% of Europeans and 97% are connected to a water disposal system.
While Europe is by and large considered as having adequate water resources, water scarcity is an increasingly frequent phenomenon and experts predict further deterioration of the water situation in Europe if temperatures keep rising. Water is no longer the problem of a few regions, but now concerns all 500 million Europeans.

Which regions of Europe are facing water scarcity?

Southern Europe, and in particular Cyprus, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain have been facing severe droughts for decades. However, in the last five years the water scarcity issue has expanded to include also Northern European countries.

According to the European Commission’s 2007 report, 33 river basins in Europe hosting a total population of 82 million or about 16.5% of the total EU population are affected by water scarcity. Most of them are located in Southern Europe, where drought and intensive irrigation are diffused, while others are in England, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Slovakia, particularly around highly populated urban centres.

What is putting Europe's water supply at risk?

Agriculture is imposing a heavy burden on European water resources. In Southern Europe, agriculture accounts for 80% of water abstraction, with its peak typically occurring in the summer when water is least available. This leads to an increased likelihood of severe water shortages during summer, consequently diminishing water quality since pollutants are less diluted.

Climate change
Increasing temperatures are affecting the Alpine climate, which represents a real danger since the Alps play a crucial role in supplying water to the continent. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scarcity will soon be extended to between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people.

Mismanagement of water resources
Water pricing policies generally do not reflect the level of sensitivity of water resources. The “user pays” principle is hardly implemented and this gap has lead to mismanagement of water resources.

Water leakage
Many water supply networks across Europe are old and worn down. The pipes are up to 150 year old and cannot stand the required pressure. As a result up to 70% of the drinking water is lost and never reaches the consumers due to leakages.

Saving potential
EU estimates that water efficiency could be improved by nearly 40% through technological improvements alone and that changes in human behaviour or production patterns could increase such savings further.
In a business-as-usual scenario the study estimates that water consumption by the public, industry and agriculture would increase by 16% by 2030.

Conversely, the use of water saving technologies and irrigation management in the industrial and agricultural sectors could reduce excesses by as much as 43%, while water efficiency measures could decrease water wastage by up to a third.

Water supply alternatives

Water supply alternatives
Through the use of several measurements, the EU aims to reduce consumption of drinking water. For this reduction, the EU strives towards an improvement in water use efficiency, partially supported by alternative solutions in the water supply.

And while experts agree with the EU Commission that water-efficiency measures should be taken before resorting to desalination, many countries already use desalinated water as an additional source. However, other alternatives are also becoming increasingly popular.

In Europe, several countries have turned to desalination technologies, especially in the southern more water scarce areas. Spain has the largest desalination capacity in the EU – with more than 700 plants in place and 20 new ones in the pipeline to be built.

Second to Spain is Italy and Cyprus. And Malta meets more than 45% of its total water needs with desalinated water.

Wastewater reuse
In Europe the largest uptake of wastewater reuse technology is in Spain, where more than 500 million m3 of wastewater is reused every year. In Italy the figure is more than 250 million m3/year which makes it much more common than in similar sized countries such as Germany, France, and the UK.

Rainwater harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is a proven alternative water supply technology used across Europe. National legislation in Belgium requires all new construction to have rainwater harvesting systems for the purposes of flushing toilets and external water uses. The purpose of this legislation is twofold: 1) to reduce demand for treated water and the expansion of the water supply infrastructure; and 2) to collect and use rainwater instead of surcharging storm-water management systems.

In Germany more than 500,000 rainwater harvesting systems are installed, and 50,000 are sold every year.

Groundwater recharge
The number of aquifer recharge and reuse schemes in Europe, and around the world, has expanded in recent years. The primary driver for this expansion has been the increasing demand for water to meet agricultural, industrial, environmental, and municipal needs.

In southern Europe, the uptake is predominantly motivated by agricultural and municipal water needs, whereas in Northern Europe groundwater recharge is mostly found in densely populated areas such as Berlin, Germany and The Netherlands, for use in households.

Belgium leads the way

Rainwater harvesting on a big scale

Stricter norms on water use and efficiency targets force domestic, commercial and industrial buildings to find ways to rethink the way they manage water. As a result, rainwater harvesting systems are very big in Belgium at the moment.

The concept of capturing rainwater and storing it for later use is now an obligation for all new buildings in Flanders

An obligation and a desire
The concept of capturing rainwater and storing it for later use is now an obligation for all new buildings in Flanders and becomes more and more popular in the Walloon and Brussels area where the practice had largely died away with the introduction of reliable mains-supplied water.

The green approach
The ever-growing demand for water in Belgium and subsequent impact on the local environment has led to an increase in the cost of water. This fact increased the market demand for rainwater recycling systems - mirroring what has already taken place in Germany.

The rational approach
Rainwater harvesting is a very effective solution to avoid flooding and reduce storm-water runoff pollution.
When rain falls, it is clean, but it immediately picks up pollutants from rooftops and pavements. This pollution is carried into storm drains and then into streams. Collecting storm-water from rooftops and directing it to storage tanks so it can later be used for irrigation or flushing decreases the volume and rate of runoff.

Rainwater in commercial buildings
The harvested rainwater can be used for non-potable applications such as toilet-flushing, clothes washing, garden/grounds irrigation, and car/fleet-washing.

In domestic use, such applications account for around 50% of all household water consumption, which can rise to in excess of 80% in commercial buildings that combine a large roof with a high demand for non-potable water.

CO2 reductions
The energy used to deliver mains water, which is estimated to be 5.5 kWh per cubic metre, is saved by making water savings on this scale, and overall, water savings in commercial building projects makes sense, both environmentally and financially.

Antwerp Courthouse

Drinking water from above

Grundfos delivers the pumps and the system in the new Courthouse in Antwerp in order to reduce the drinking water quantity of the property. Designed by the world famous architect Richard Rogers, the most expressive element in the entire complex is without a doubt the roof – a true sculpture rising into the sky at different heights.

Inside the building, Grundfos has supplied solutions for all pump tasks: for HVAC wastewater removal, pressure boosting and fire prevention. In addition, Grundfos has supplied two rainwater reuse solutions for each side of the building.

PHOTO: The Courthouse in Antwerp

The rainwater harvesting system
Any rainwater harvesting system has five major and very different subsystems: Capture, conveyance, holding, distribution and a system to have mains water back-up for occasions when rainwater runs low.

The conveyance and holding system
The capture system of Antwerp court house is the entire roof of the building, which looks like sails. The rain falling on these sail roofs is distributed to a collection point, where any solid matter is filtered away before the rainwater enters the storage tank. These underground tanks are the holding system.

The distribution system
From here, the pumps take over. Pumps are an integral part of almost all rainwater catchment systems. However, in domestic buildings the rainwater pump must pull the water out of the cistern and push it to its intended end use. In commercial buildings the pump placed in the rainwater tank delivers water to the internal break tank.

A complete stainless vertical multistage pump with an extreme low NPSH value (CRI 10-2) takes the water from the underground rainwater harvesting tank and pumps it to the internal break tank (20,000 litres) placed inside the building.

From the break tank a speed controlled booster set (Hydro Multi-E 3 CRIE 5 – 10) will supply pressurised rainwater to all non-drinking water quality points of use.

Back-up system
In case of dry spells and insufficient water in the underground storage tank, the Grundfos CRI pump shuts down. The internal tank will be supplied with water from normal mains supply until the underground rain tank reaches a certain level again.

The system at the courthouse is designed to withstand several weeks without rain, without needing water from the mains supply.

The major benefits of the system:
• Financial benefit: Rainwater is for free
• Environmental benefit: Reduced consumption of potable water and reduction of storm water discharge.

PHOTO: Grundfos pumps at the Courthouse in Antwerp

Any rainwater harvesting system has five major and very different subsystems: Capture, conveyance, holding, distribution and a system to have mains water back-up for occasions when rainwater runs low.

Grundfos product data

HVAC: Magna and TPE

Wastewater: SENV

Pressure boosting: 2 x Hydro MPC

Fire prevention: 2 x Hydro MPC

Other Grundfos water conservation projects in Belgium

• School complex in Essen

• School complex in Bruges

• Hospital in Deurne

• Elderly Home in Aarstelaar

• Shopping mall “K” in Kortrijk

• Several apartment buildings in Antwerp

• Movie theatres from the Kinepolis group.

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