Our cities are growing in population and size, climate is changing, and water is becoming scarce. We are forced to find solutions that keep our communities safe and that ensure the wellbeing also for future generations. In this article we take a closer look at the situation in Poland and which water related issues we can solve with efficient stormwater management – not only in Poland but in all countries facing similar problems.
How can improving stormwater management help mitigate water crisis in Poland?
Contrary to common belief, Poland is one of the driest countries in Europe. It faces an array of problems such as sinking groundwater levels, drying up rivers, periods of droughts interrupted by short but heavy rainfalls. According to experts, the situation is likely to worsen over the coming years. They have also allocated a part of the problem to the fact that Poland is not retaining enough water1.
Often, the soil cannot absorb all precipitation from short and strong rainfalls at once. The increase of impervious (asphalt, concrete, etc. covered) surfaces areas through development and growing urbanization prevent rain and melt from draining back into the soil. Instead, rain and melt run into combined or stormwater sewers carrying precipitation to treatment plants or to streams, lakes or the sea. Overflows and flooding have become a frequent problem in urban areas because sewer systems are not designed to cope with the sudden high quantities of rainfall we are experiencing today.
Poland is not the only country having to deal with these problems, many European countries are facing similar issue due to climate change. Infrastructure, environmental and water experts share the same view on what needs to be done to mitigate and reduce risks:
- Replenish aquifers and prevent groundwater levels from sinking by infiltrating rain and melt preferably there where it falls.
- Prevent pollutants from being washed into rivers, lakes and the sea
- Prevent flooding and overflows
- Retain and reuse water
- Relieve sewers and treatment plants
Stormwater management is clearly the key. The products and solutions on the market are numerous but many only address a part of the issues. As a result, public authorities, investors and civil engineers are confronted with time consuming decision making and having to match several solutions to complete the puzzle.
Stormwater management wrapped in a word: Raineo®
At Pipelife, we believe that an ideal stormwater management solution should address as many water-related issues as possible, at once. Since precipitation needs to be managed differently from location to location and according to given conditions, the system solution needs to be modular and flexible in design.
To facilitate and simplify decision making and to makes sure that every part of the system fits together perfectly, we have wrapped up all possibilities into one concept. It is called Raineo® Stormwater Solutions.
Although the technology behind each part of the concept is sophisticated and based on years of elaboration and development, its function is simple: catch – filter or clean – infiltrate or attenuate (retain) – reuse or discharge stormwater. Every part can be applied singularly or in combination with the rest.
"Our aim was to take out the complexity, to develop a solution flexible enough to suit as many stormwater scenarios as possible. Safety and ease of installation were one of our major focus areas in developing the Raineo® Infiltration and Attenuation Stormboxes." says Karol Marzejon, Project Manager at Pipelife Poland. "For each project we'll come up with a complete, tailored system design. All from one source and optimized regarding capacity, costs, sustainability, etc.", adds Marzejon proudly.
Infiltration or Attenuation? The answer is Raineo® Stormbox
It depends on many factors whether to opt for infiltration or attenuation. Both, however, can be handled with one system: Raineo® Stormboxes.
Storing rainwater and melt and bringing it back into the soil via controlled infiltration is beneficial for maintaining groundwater levels and replenishing aquifers. Apart from environmental sustainability in terms of maintaining a natural water cycle, Stormbox infiltration is also economically sustainable for both owners and public facilities: less sewer charges, sewer relief and relief of treatment plants, overflow and flood prevention.
Stormwater retention presents relief to combined and stormwater sewers as well but works on a different principle. Water from precipitation and melt is stored at peaks and discharged gradually into the combined sewer system. This, too, helps keeping increases in necessary sewer capacity at bay and equally prevents overflows, resulting contamination and costly flood damages. Water re-use is another possibility that is becoming increasingly popular.
Pipelife Stormbox II for Zielona Góra's largest environmental public transport project
The environmental project "The integrated system of low-carbon public transport in Zielona Góra" included one of Poland's largest Raineo® Stormbox II orders. The project comprised the purchase of 64 new low-emission buses, the construction of a bus terminal and the reconstruction of the existing depot. Worth more than PLN 209.4 million net, it is the largest project of the kind in the history of Zielona Góra. PLN 167.2 million net were co-financed with EU funding, the rest is the city's and Polish Railway's investment.
The size of newly paved surface area and the estimated amount of peak precipitation were used to calculate the necessary stormwater discharge volume. To keep the terminal and depot dry and running at all times, it would be necessary to convey 330 l of stormwater per second whereas the capacity of the combined sewer is 20 l/s. These conditions issued by the Local Water Management called for an attenuation system to prevent overflows and flooding.
Although the main contractor Exalo Drilling S.A. had initially planned to use commonly applied retention tanks, the company opted for Pipelife Stormboxes II as attenuation system. 960 boxes with a total volume of 396.5 m³ (396,480 liters) were embedded in 4 vertical rows and wrapped in geotextile and geomembrane.
Some of the points that convinced the contractor:
- Space saving design and capacity:
Each Stormbox II unit has a capacity of 413 l, the box design allows for a flexible optimally adapted horizontal and vertical layout.
Stormbox II is one of the strongest rainwater box systems on the market. With a vertical load strength of 700 kN/m2 the boxes are strong enough to resist more than 11 elephants or about 5 buses per 1 m².
- Safe and fast installation:
Never has the installation of stormwater boxes been faster and safer. Contrary to comparable products, Stormboxes II are securely assembled via a slide and click system, instead of using accessory clips.
- Easy and safe maintenance:
Jet cleaners and inspection robots fit easily through the system and damages to geotextiles from the high-pressure water jet can be ruled out thanks to the clever wall plate design.
A further point that made Exalo Drilling's first Raineo® Stormbox II project a great success is the support from Pipelife Poland's technical experts. "I personally went to the construction site to make sure the installation team was doing everything correctly and to give advice if there were questions. The first time can sometimes be stressful, but we are there to help and reduce risks and the team did just great!" says Andrzej Kaczurak Head of the Technical Marketing at Pipelife Poland who is already looking forward to further Raineo® projects.
Zielona Góra's new bus terminal and depot were finalized and took up service in September 2019.
Collaboration and innovation solve our challenges
The 21st century is for sure the age of changes, both global and local. As much as technology speedily advances, we are confronted with rapid environmental, economic and social change. Unfortunately, and apart from all the positive changes to the better, we are also confronted with challenges. Especially environmental issues are becoming more and more visible. The signs of climate change have become too large to ignore and it is obvious that these will increase in impact. Luckily, we have technology, know-how and the right partners at hand to find solutions for a safer and more comfortable living and to prepare for future needs.
1Climate Change News [29/07/2019]: "Poland faces threat of water crisis as rivers dry up"
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Raineo on the Polish website: Pipelife Poland Raineo