NCRD at the Forefront of Combatting Drought. The ‘Home Water Retention Technologies’ Project Has Been Launched
A sustainable water management system is a serious developmental challenge that Poland is facing. The effects of actions taken or omissions made now will impact future generations. Poland is among the European countries with the most scarce water resources, frequently affected by droughts. Experts are warning that steppe formation is a real threat in Poland. In order to reverse this trend, water retention is needed in places where it fell in the form of rain. The National Centre for Research and Development wants to inspire Polish businesses to create innovative technologies and systems for storing and utilising rainwater in houses, residential buildings and schools. To achieve this, a new project “home water retention technologies” has been launched, financed from European Funds as part of the Smart Growth Programme. As a result of the project innovative multicircuit systems of retention, storage and purification of rainwater, grey water and black water.
There is three-four times less water per one Pole than for an average European. Lower indicators are observed only in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Cyprus and Malta. During drought water reserves are falling by another 50%. Drinking water resources are dropping throughout the world. One of the solutions is small- and large-scale retention.
According to the Wody Polskie National Water Management Authority data of March 2020, currently only 6.5% of rainwater is being recovered in Poland, and the value needs to be at least doubled. The main water recovery method applied now is creating special retention tanks, where millions of cubic metres of water are stored. For instance, in Spain there are 1900 retention tanks, and the retention rate reached 45%. In Poland there are around 100 water retention tanks with a capacity above 1 million cubic metres (1 hm³). An alternative solution is to create a dispersed system consisting of millions of smaller tanks installed outside single-family houses and public utility buildings.
The boom for microretention
In recent years the popularity of home water retention technology, which involves collecting, for instance, rainwater for own purposes, is growing throughout the world. The National Centre for Research and Development, which has launched the “Home water retention technologies” project, has made it its goal to develop a modern system which, thanks to the use of IT technologies, will actively manage the process of collecting and utilising rainwater on the basis of data on its consumption characteristics and weather forecasts.
The systems that are being developed will be connected with the weather forecast, and managing the recovered water will be smart and autonomous. The device will notify the user if they can wash their car of water their garden. The project is meant to be simple. We would like to provide people with a technology that will tell them how much water is in the tank and how much can be used to leave enough for washing or laundry. Such complex multicircuit systems have not been created yet; we want to develop them and be pioneers of this technology, said Wojciech Kamieniecki, Director of the National Centre for Research and Development.
Reducing groundwater and deep water resources constitutes an increasing challenge, and we are inevitably approaching the state of hydrological drought. The phenomenon occurs when water reserves available in all natural water reservoirs drop below the locally adopted threshold. This last stage of drought development is characterised with a substantial drop in underground water levels as compared to the average level, and with well drying. According to projections, the situation will further deteriorate, causing periodic deficits of drinking water.
For this reason, there is a need to develop microretention solutions in the next few years, especially for households and housing communities. In addition to incentives in the form of subsidies and tax benefits, it is advisable to develop smart rainwater management systems bringing real benefits in comparison to the currently used passive systems. It is worth emphasising that the collected rainwater is a perfect source of free water for all household needs, such as body washing, laundry, dishwashing, etc. It can also be used to water the garden. Its infiltration in the garden supplies water to the root systems of the surrounding trees, which in turn prevent the formation of the so-called “heat islands”. Another benefit of the solution is household budget savings in terms of water supply and sewage disposal costs.
In addition to protection from drought and water deficits, we need security measures against floods. The progressing hardening of urban and suburban areas causes 60-75% rainwater to go to the city sewage system. This, in turn, due to intensifying climate changes and the related weather extremes, leads to overloading sewage systems and sudden floods in cities. This can be solved by dispersed rainwater collection in specific systems, storing it for rainless periods, and in the case of tank overflow – directing the water to infiltration boxes. NCBR shares this new, holistic approach, as it enables sustainable development of cities and creates comfortable conditions for their residents.
Three-level water circulation
Within the project by the National Centre for Research and Development, whose announcement was preceded by several months of technical dialogue, the research and development focussed on developing new technologies for storing and managing rainwater and grey water (from dishwashing, body washing and laundry) in households and public utility buildings. The system is going to be completely self-operating and user-friendly, and its design and interface is meant to encourage users to use water in a rational way.
In the selection of best proposals, NCBR experts will assess, among others, technological capabilities in the following areas: retention, filtration and treatment, the quality of the obtained water, tank structure, materials used and the durability of the installation. A very important aspect of the system is to apply the multiple use of rainwater for various purposes.
The developed technology will allow three-stage circulation of recovered (rain/grey/black) water: first it will be used for washing and potentially for body drinking, in the next cycle for flushing the toilet and finally for watering e.g. the lawn. The entities will have 2.5 years to create such an advanced device, and the budget prepared by NCBR for this purpose amounts to PLN 4.6 million. The whole project is carried out in the pre-commercial procurement procedure, adjusted to ordering solutions currently unavailable on the market.
Home water retention, the Green Deal and the gratitude of future generations
Thanks to the “Home water retention technologies” project, a system will be created that will facilitate rainwater management, which will contribute to an improved protection of water ecosystems and reduce groundwater consumption. These activities are part of the “European Green Deal” strategy. The European Commission has set out 10 priorities to review every existing regulation in terms of its impact on the climate and to introduce new laws on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, agriculture and innovation.
One would think that in the context of moving towards climate neutrality, water would be an excellent source of ‘green energy’. However, experts point out that large dams and retention reservoirs are an uncertain direction under Polish conditions. Even if we were to collect all the water that falls from rain in a single dam, we would not get enough power. This is, among others, because our country is low-lying and the power of hydroelectric power plants increases in direct proportion to the damming height. The importance of the NCBR project for combatting drought lies in the impact of the technologies to be developed on the protection of deep waters, as well as on the prevention of flash floods on roads in cities. Of course everything depends on the scale at which these systems can be disseminated.
The “Home water retention technologies” project is only one of nine new undertakings initiated by NCBR, with an aim to create new technologies for the Polish economy and future generations. The projects will also include a heat-generating plant of the future, a combined heat and power plant in the local energy system, modern sewage treatment plants, biogas plants, process and energy efficient buildings, ventilation systems for schools and homes, electricity storage and heat and cold storage. All projects have been selected for their potential to be implemented on a mass scale and to become a Polish speciality.
Detailed information and documentation of the “Home water retention technologies” project can be found on the website of the National Centre for Research and Development.
The undertaking is implemented within a non-competitive project “Improvement of the level of innovation in the economy through Raising the level of innovativeness of the economy through implementation of research projects under innovative public procurement in order to support implementation of the European Green Deal strategy (under sub-measure 4.1.3 Innovative methods of research management under the Smart Growth Operational Programme).
Project co-funded by the EU under the European Regional Development Fund.
The National Centre for Research and Development
Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by Karolina Ampulska