The project ‘Protecting Baltic Sea from untreated wastewater spillages during flood events in urban areas’ (NOAH) was selected from 114 applications for co-financing by the EU Interreg Baltic Sea Region. The leading partner of the project is the Tallinn University of Technology.
Flooding and the associated pollution is one of the main environmental problems which the cities around the Baltic Sea have to tackle in the near future. Increased flooding has been caused by both rising sea levels and more intensive rain. The planning and construction of storm water systems do not take into account the rapid growth of cities and the increase in rainfall due to climate change. As a result, there is an increased risk that not all of the collected water reaches the sewerage and hence, some of the water will need to be fed into the Baltic Sea without a thorough cleaning process. If untreated wastewater containing nutrients, hazardous substances, and pathogens from densely populated areas reaches the Baltic Sea, it is a threat to both human health and the environment as a whole.
According to Ivar Annus, NOAH Coordinator and researcher at the University of Technology, the project has three main goals: to increase the capacity of municipalities to take into account climate change in urban planning, to demonstrate to water companies methods for better management of storm water systems, and to create a network of cities around the Baltic Sea that would serve as an example for other municipalities in the region for more effective management of storm water. Nils Kändler, who is responsible for the technical side of the project, emphasised that the novelty of the project lies in the integration of mathematical models of storm water systems in urban space, or the digital double, with traditional planning methods. For the first time, smart rainwater collection solutions are being tested in pilot cities, illustrating the benefits to water companies of implementing real-time managed automated control systems in existing infrastructure. Hence, the NOAH project makes use of knowledge gained through years of university research and utilises it in actual urban spaces, helping municipalities to adapt better to climate change. The implementation of the NOAH concept is likely to reduce the amount of pollution reaching the Baltic Sea by about half.
Top specialists from Estonia, Finland, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, and Denmark contribute to the implementation of the project. Nine cities have been selected as pilot areas for the project and several water companies have been involved. Seven universities and research institutions are responsible for the technical side of the project. Several international umbrella organisations will help disseminate the results of the project. Several seminars and events for introducing and implementing the results of NOAH are planned in each partner country, including Estonia. In Estonia, the Estonian Water Works Association, the cities of Haapsalu and Rakvere, and AS Rakvere Vesi participate in the project in addition to the Tallinn University of Technology. The Ministry of the Environment participates in the project as a co-partner, implementing the results of the project to improve the respective legislation in Estonia. The budget of the project is c. three million euros, €2,432,732.45 of which is the contribution of the European Regional Development Fund. The project will be completed mid-2021.