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[Technical committees update] News from IAHR/IWA joint Technical Committee on Urban Drainage

The annual newsletter from the IAHR/IWA joint technical committee on urban drainage is now online [PDF format – Newsletter 33] 

The newsletter contains the latest information about the committee members; conclusions from previous events and news from upcoming events; and news and reports from the working groups (WG), including the international WG on Data and Models, the real-time control of urban drainage systems WG, the sewer systems and processes WG, the international WG on urban rainfall, the international WG for water sensitive urban design, the WG on urban storm water harvesting, the WG on metrology of urban drainage, the WG on urban drainage asset management, the WG on urban drainage on cold climates, and the WG on source control for stormwater management. 

The committee has just launched a call for proposal for the 16th International Conference on Urban Drainage, to be celebrated in 2023.

Statement from Jeroen Langeveld, Chair of IAHR/IWA Joint Committee on Urban Drainage

“In 1981, the IWA / IAHR Joint Committee on Urban Drainage (JCUD) was established as a joint committee of the Specialist Group on Urban Drainage (SGUD) of the International Water Association (IWA) and the Technical Section on Urban Drainage within the Technical Division II “Applied Hydraulics” of the International Association on Hydraulic Engineering and Research (IAHR). This joint oversight has been established to emphasize and promote effective interactions between experts on hydraulic aspects (main focus of IAHR) and on water quality aspects (main focus of IWA). Nearly 4 decades later, we can conclude that this marriage has been very successful, as knowledge on both hydraulics and water quality in urban drainage has developed strongly.

However, we can also conclude that the traditional focus on urban drainage, in terms of urban stormwater and wastewater infrastructures, is reaching its limits. Urban drainage is typically seen as the ‘20th century solution’ for stormwater and wastewater management, and the creativity to come with new terms (SUDS, LID, sponge city, nature based solutions, WSUD, blue-green systems…), or with terms that only say what it’s not (such as the new IWA Specialist Group on Non-Sewered Sanitation) is tremendous, irrespective the real novelty of the concepts. Consequently, new people to the field, such as MSc and PhD students, may easily get confused and may start thinking that thinking blue-green is enough.

Clearly, thinking in only two colors is not enough. Climate change, budget issues, risk management and circularity currently all put pressure on the development of urban drainage systems. Unfortunately, these pressures do not point in the same direction. Budget constraints and risk management force the urban drainage field towards asset management of urban water infrastructures with a focus on balancing costs, risks and performance. This requires further development of inspection techniques and life expectancy models. Climate change, including too much or too little water, as well as livability aspects, forces the urban drainage field to extend the focus from grey (piped infrastructures) to include blue (water), green (planted areas), brown (soil, subsurface), more grey (roads) and red (buildings), implying the need to involve urban planners, architects, road engineers and more to make sure that all aspects are covered adequately. Finally, sustainability and circularity manifests itself in the transformation of wastewater treatment plants to resource recovery plants and even stronger in the ‘novel’ sanitation field (where ‘novel’ sometimes has more to do with a lack of historical reflection than with the concepts, such as with the application of vacuum sewers 100 years after the demolition of the Liernur vacuum systems).

As such, the dimensionality of the urban drainage issues has increased dramatically. Despite this, it is extremely important to further develop the key quality of our field, which is to integrate new concepts and knowledge into urban drainage practice and science. This means for our community that it needs to be enriched by contacts with other groups that operate on the boundaries of our fields, to bridge the gaps where necessary and beneficial and to actively share the new findings within the JCUD community. In other words: the challenge for our field is to embrace diversity, while enhancing integrality.

The JCUD tries to relate closer to other (IWA/IAHR) groups, while at the same time maintaining and stimulating the ‘internal’ JCUD and WG contacts. It’s this challenge that I am happy to share with the Joint Committee members and hopefully the readers of this newsletter."

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