Rethinking urban areas: an example of an integrated blue-green approach

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The provision of high quality urban water services, the assets of which are often conceptualised as ‘blue infrastructure’, is essential for public health and quality of life in the cities. On the other hand, parks, recreation grounds, gardens, green roofs and in general ‘green infrastructure’, provide a range of (urban) ecosystem services (including quality of life and aesthetics) and could also be thought of as inter alia contributors to the mitigation of floods, droughts, noise, air pollution and urban heat island (UHI) effects, improvement of biodiversity, amenity values and human health. Currently, these ‘blue’ and ‘green’ assets/infrastructure are planned to operate as two separate systems despite the obvious interactions between them (for example, low runoff coefficient of green areas resulting in reduction of stormwater flows, and irrigation of green areas by potable water in increasing pressure on water supply systems). This study explores the prospects of a more integrated ‘blue-green’ approach – tested at the scale of a household. Specifically, UWOT (the Urban Water Optioneering Tool) was extended and used to assess the potential benefits of a scheme that employed locally treated greywater along with harvested rainwater for irrigating a green roof. The results of the simulations indicated that the blue-green approach combined the benefits of both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ technologies/services and at the same time minimised the disadvantages of each when installed separately.

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