Human activity results in the production of a wide range of pollutants that can enter the water cycle through stormwater or wastewater. Among others, heavy metals are still detected in high concentrations around urban areas and their impact on aquatic organisms is of major concern. In this study, we propose to use a substance flow analysis as a tool for heavy metals management in urban areas. We illustrate the approach with the case of copper in Lausanne, Switzerland. The results show that around 1,500 kg of copper enter the aquatic compartment yearly. This amount contributes to sediment enrichment, which may pose a long-term risk for benthic organisms. The major sources of copper in receiving surface water are roofs and catenaries of trolleybuses. They represent 75% of the total input of copper into the urban water system. Actions to reduce copper pollution should therefore focus on these sources. Substance flow analysis also highlights that copper enters surface water mainly during rain events, i.e., without passing through any treatment procedure. A reduction in pollution could also be achieved by improving stormwater management. In conclusion, the study showed that substance flow analysis is a very effective tool for sustainable urban water management.
Keywords: heavy metals, sustainable water management, substance flow analysis, urban water cycle