For an environment in harmony with water, there has to be space for rainwater. Literally, to allow it to soak away into the subsoil, buffer or drain away slowly. To think that it can all be carried away underground is an illusion. And why should we even do that? Climate change doesn’t just lead to more intense local downpours, but also to lengthy periods of drought. This means that containing rainwater is the smartest and most sustainable solution.
Not enough space for rainwater
Nowhere in Europa is so much public space per capita occupied as in Flanders. Currently around 14.5% of our region consists of paved surfaces. These prevent the rainwater from soaking into the soil, so that it runs more quickly into the sewers. This leads directly to more sewer overflows.
Soaking away becomes the norm
Containing, buffering and draining away rainwater is fundamental, both on public land and around private homes. Accordingly, in infrastructure works, we should focus entirely on ensuring that the rainwater soaks into the soil. Laying two pipes during sewage works, one for waste water and one for rainwater, is only a good idea if the rainwater actually has to be carried away and can’t soak into the ground or be collected in buffer facilities on the spot. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a river or stream nearby for buffering. Public spaces can perfectly well have two functions. For example, playgrounds or skate parks that are under water during a heavy downpour and dry up again after the downpour, or wadis in parks. The possibilities are endless.
A buffer is perfect for storing rainwater to be used during dry periods. Nowadays, you can even control the buffer volumes smartly so that the water is available where and when you want it. If you combine the buffer function with treatment, the rainwater is suitable for more purposes.
Aquafin and Vlario, the Flemish knowledge centre for the sewer sector, present inspiring ways of containing rainwater on their website www.blauwgroenvlaanderen.be. For public and private land, as well as school grounds.