The first webinar – The Urban Water Cycle

by André
We had our first webinar two weeks ago and I would say it was a success with more than 80 participants. Read all about it below.

Background

The traditional approach to the planning of water supply, sanitation and drainage, at urban level, typically entails the provision of clean drinking water which is largely converted into wastewater and/or fecal sludge. These waste streams, whether or not treated, are subsequently discharged into the environment, typically water bodies. A similar approach is followed for rainwater which is conveyed, combined or not with wastewater, into the environment. This one-way approach to urban water resources management should be reconsidered in a context of urban development, population growth and climate change. Re-thinking this cycle in order to reach a closed urban water cycle is paramount to assure the access to safe drinking water and the provision of safe and affordable sanitation services in the coming decades to millions of urban dwellers across the World, and this issue is particularly pressing for African cities, which are lagging behind in implementing more environmental, social and economic sustainable urban development approaches. This first webinar will be the introduction to the concepts of the Urban Water Cycle and Integrated Urban Water Management and discuss in detail how these concepts could support the sustainable development of Mozambique’s capital, Maputo.

Having this in mind, we have our first webinar a couple of weeks back with presentations of Manuel Alvarinho (AQUASHARE), André Arsénio and Luuk Rietveld. It is also important to mention the very good role that Bento Mualoja (AQUASHARE) played as Host and Master of Ceremonies.

The presentations

The first presentation was given by Manuel Alvarinho (AQUASHARE) on the topic of Access to water and sanitation services in cities across Africa – challenges for the 21st century. Manuel went through the main challenges that African cities are facing, are are due face in the coming decades, due to economic and population growth, climate change and asymmetries in the access to public services, such as water supply and sanitation. For the particular case of Maputo, Manuel mentioned that:

  • Population growth is one of the highest in Africa;
  • Maputo main water supply system is intermittent and serving about 2/3 of population;
  • Near 1,000 informal providers, in peri-urban areas, are over-abstracting from a non-confined aquifer;
  • Less than 15% of people use sewers and treatment of wastewater is precarious;
  • Wastewater is extensively used to grow vegetables for Maputo markets;
  • Last 5 years of consecutive drought affecting the main Maputo water source.

Manuel then went on to conclude that:

  • IUWM may respond to our challenges, including improve the resilience of our systems to the climate change negative impacts;
  • There are indication of a new momentum in Africa for IUWM;
  • IUWM requires sound policy support as an investment in long term strategic planning tool for the future of our cities;
  • Some countries in Africa may require substantial external support to capacity building, data centres, planning tools, etc.

The second presenter was André Arsénio discussing how integrated Urban Water Management could potentially look like in Maputo by bringing together water supply, sanitation and urban drainage. This presentation echoed some of the data André presented here earlier and expanded on that by proposing an arrangement for water reclamation for the Mozal complex in Matola (see Figure below). The argument underlined the need to identify new and alternative sources – an approach going beyond building and increasing the capacity of existing dams – and the adaptation of planned (sewer) infrastructure to permit, for example, water reclamation schemes. It is important to note that these adaptations does not force water reclamation but enables it in the coming years and decades: if infrastructure is not planned in this manner water reclamation in the future will require retro-fitting which increases investment costs.



The arrangement for the wastewater treatment plants in Matola imply the treated effluent being discharged directly into the estuary (Top). An alternative could entail re-planning the infrastructure to allow industrial water reclamation by the industrial complex at Mozal (Bottom).

Luuk Rietveld went last and dove into the links between thee urban water cycle and what it might mean for Integrated Urban Water Management in Mozambique and in Maputo. Luuk presented several examples of water reclamation schemes from across the world with a very good example being that o Dow Chemical’s plant that receives wastewater from Terneuzen instead of desalinating seawater, which makes the process much cheaper (Figure below).

Dow Chemical’s plant in Terneuzen receives treated wastewater for its processes. This alternative is cheaper than seawater desalination.

Finally, we had a very lively Q&A session with very interesting question. I should mention that we got several questions on rainwater harvesting and reuse which we will address on our fourth webinar on Managed Aquifer Recharge. So stay tuned!

Conclusion

All in all it was a great event with more than 80 unique participants from Mozambique and abroad. Despite having to select an online approach for this portion of our project instead of face-to-face events, we are very happy with the output and we hope that other experts, practitioners, researchers and students make use of the materials produced.

The materials

If you wish to (re-)watch the whole event please check our YouTube channel:

YouTube Preview Image

To download the presentation please use this link.

Next step

In a couple of weeks we will have our second webinar focusing on the implementation of Water Reclamation Projects in Maputo with presentations by Celma, Noor, Jules and Nelson Matsinhe (UEM).

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