By 3PM on August 22nd, the students of our Advanced Water Cycle Management Course had submitted their concluding work at Aarhus University’s web portal. The following afternoon, they finally presented their solutions to a small committee.
At the finish line, the mix of guiding theory backed by semi-practical tasks has proven a very successful way of planning a summer school – both for the students and for the Danish companies involved.
Moving away from “silo mentality”
Half-way, the course was divided onto three thematic tracks of Groundwater, Water Distribution and Wastewater. When the students were handed their task, which was specific to the track they had chosen, it was no prerequisite that the groups should consult with each other across the tracks. However, in line with the course concept of thinking sustainability into every single step, it came natural to the groups to make sure that their solution was actually feasible, and that all points in the chain were considered. Some did so by scheduling project meetings with other groups, to collect and highlight the most important knowledge. As one of the students explain:
“Our task is specific to groundwater, but if we are to think about implementing a specific solution, we cannot just plan to drill wells here and here, and pump up this much water; the water will have to be distributed, so we also need to know what the customer demands are, and so on. We need to know the full circle.” – Shane Carrohan, Ph.D. student at DTU Miljø.
Turning waste streams into value streams
This way of considering the ‘full circle’ also included to rethink the whole collaboration of industries in an area, to make sure that processes are built and optimised in the most sustainable way. As an example, one of the groups presented a ‘Future Industrial symbiosis’, where a wastewater treatment plant was analysed in relation to the local farming and tanning industries, and the multiple ways they can benefit from each other.
Smart water usage and data based decisions
Another group considered the issue of flooding vs water scarcity. To avoid flooding, rain water can be collected through infiltration ditches and stored in a retention basin, ready for use in periods of water scarcity. Additionally, by the use of a run-off river hydropower plant, the water can generate electricity for the pump that will, later on, carry it to where it can be used. To optimise water management, the group divided their city into district metering areas. This way, they were able to manage pressure within the water network, and to obtain a leakage detection program. This allowed them to reduce lost revenue by 64 %, covering a 13 % cut in water losses and almost a 50 % cut in average water pressure. Learn more about this technique here.