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Water management in Brussels: knowledge gained from the long time data series of the Flowbru regional telemetry system

Gestion des eaux à Bruxelles : enseignements des longues séries temporelles de données du système de télémétrie Flowbru
Waterbeheer in Brussel: kennis vergaard via de langdurige gegevensreeksen van het gewestelijk telemetriesysteem Flowbru
Nicolas de Ville et Michel Verbanck
Traduction(s) :
Gestion des eaux à Bruxelles : enseignements des longues séries temporelles de données du système de télémétrie Flowbru
Waterbeheer in Brussel: kennis vergaard via de langdurige gegevensreeksen van het gewestelijk telemetriesysteem Flowbru

Résumés

Les longues séries temporelles de données fournies par le réseau hydrométrique régional Flowbru (www.flowbru.be) offrent une nouvelle occasion de mieux comprendre le système hydrographique de Bruxelles. L'exploration et l'analyse de ces données, assorties de leur consolidation, de leur modélisation et de leur interprétation minutieuse, apportent un éclairage nouveau sur les performances du système d'assainissement. En premier lieu, le problème des infiltrations d'eau limpide parasite dans le réseau est abordé. De nouvelles méthodes sont mises au point pour calculer les volumes d'eau claire qui pénètrent quotidiennement dans l'ensemble de la zone traitée par la station d'épuration de Bruxelles-Nord. L'importance des variations saisonnières des infiltrations est mise en lumière, de même que les moyens de détecter ces variations dans les séries temporelles limnimétriques, de façon à repérer les canalisations sujettes à des infiltrations. L'étude porte ensuite sur l'accumulation des sédiments dans le principal collecteur de la Région bruxelloise, à savoir, le grand émissaire de la rive droite du canal. La dynamique de cette accumulation est examinée, puis une comparaison entre la situation actuelle et celle des années 1980 fait apparaître que le phénomène s'est fortement accentué au cours de ces dernières décennies. Les possibles causes et conséquences de cette accumulation sont enfin brièvement évoquées.

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Notes de l’auteur

This work was supported by Innoviris through the Anticipate programme “Capitalizing on hydrometry data series to address Brussels water and wastewater management challenges” (Project 2013-PRFB-32). We would like to acknowledge the Flowbru telemetry system operated by the Société Bruxelloise de Gestion des Eaux, and the efficient help provided by Ir Gizèle Bazier (SBGE).

Texte intégral

Introduction

1In the early 2000s, the Brussels-Capital Region installed an extensive teletransmitted limnimeter network providing long time data series in most of the main collectors and bodies of water in Brussels. There are 166 sensors which measure parameters such as rainfall in the Brussels Region, water level, flow velocity, water temperature and a number of water quality parameters (www.flowbru.be) [SBGE, 2014]. The many motivations to install this network included the prevention of flooding, the quantification of the Brussels water budget, the measurement of the volumes of wastewater carried by each collector and the improvement of our understanding of the interactions between the sewer system and the natural hydrographical system. This initiative was also an important step towards compliance with the European Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD). The WFD directive requires European Union members to monitor their bodies of water, and aims, among other objectives, to restore the favourable ecological status or ecological potential of the different bodies of water. This can only be accomplished if the interactions between the artificial and natural water system are well understood. The first data were recorded around 2005, and every day new data are produced and archived. Long time data series are therefore available. As part of the Innoviris Anticipate programme, the project entitled “Capitalising on hydrometry data to address Brussels water and wastewater management challenges” aims at analysing the Flowbru database to extract knowledge on hydraulic and hydrological performance in Brussels based on the long time data series.

2The challenges of Brussels water management are numerous and varied, and include flood mitigation, ever-increasing imperviousness, river pollution control and sewerage management. Like many old European cities, the combined sewer system of Brussels was built more than a century ago, with one main objective: to evacuate the malodorous and foul wastewater produced by the growing city using every waterway available at the time. Thus many small streams were covered and turned into sewage collectors [van Mierlo, 1878, Alaerts et al., 1980, Kohlbrenner, 2014]. We are left with the legacy of a system which is not suitable for modern water quality requirements. The artificial and natural water systems are intermixed to the point that even today the limits of the different systems are not yet well known. Therefore, water managers and engineers must gather information in order to improve system efficiency and respect river water quality standards while protecting the city from flooding hazards.

1. Case studies: the New Maelbeek CSO, the Brussels Right collector and the North WWTP

3The recently built North WWTP has a wastewater treatment capacity of 1.1 million equivalent inhabitants. The wastewater produced in the Brussels North technical watershed (Figure 1) is transported by the sewage system to the treatment plant and is cleaned before being discharged back to the River Zenne. Since its installation in 2007, the water quality of the Zenne has improved greatly [Brion et al., 2015]. However, the frequent spills of untreated wastewater into the river during rainfall events keep hampering the efforts to attain the favourable ecological status as described in the WFD.

4One of the key nodes in the Brussels sewer system is the combined sewer overflow (CSO) structure of the New Maelbeek collector, located in Rue du Lion in the north of Brussels (Neder-over-Hembeek). It is by far the most important wastewater overflow structure in Brussels in terms of triggering frequency and overflowed volumes. The wastewater produced in the Maelbeek catchment (Figure 1) (Brussels centre, Schaerbeek, Evere, Saint-Josse-ten-Node, Ixelles, Etterbeek, for a total surface of 36 km²) is guided towards the North WWTP through the Brussels Right collector. When it rains, the excess volumes that cannot be accepted in the treatment plant are evacuated by the overflow structure towards the River Zenne, the idea being to evacuate as quickly as possible the extra water from Brussels by the river to protect the city from flooding, irrespectively of its pollutant content [Guyaux, 1968, Verbanck et al., 1994a].

Figure 1

Figure 1

The green area shows the Maelbeek catchment with the New Maelbeek Overflow structure (blue star). The brown lines show the Brussels main collectors and the red line highlights the Brussels Right collector. The blue line represents roughly the limits of the Brussels North technical watershed.

  • 1 One CSO event is defined in this work as a discharge recorded in the New Maelbeek CSO that lasts at (...)

5This kind of structure is vital in densely populated cities drained by combined sewers, as the amount of impervious surfaces is so considerable [Vanhuysse et al., 2006] that the runoff water cannot be treated fast enough by the WWTP. However, the WFD aims at limiting the frequency of overflow, as it is triggered only by exceptional rainfall. The final decision of the maximum number of CSOs is under the remit of EU member states, and European countries tend to limit the maximum number of CSOs to 20 events per year [Malgrat, 2016]. Table 1 shows that with more than 150 overflow events a year1, Brussels is far from this objective.

The impact of this overflow structure on the River Zenne water quality is significant, as the wastewater – besides the fact that it is mixed up with runoff water – is concentrated in easily biodegradable matter that creates oxygen depletion in the river [Le et al. 2014]. This creates anoxic conditions that are damageable for the living animals in the river. Furthermore, metallic pollutants produced by road traffic such as zinc, cadmium or lead, together with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are washed off from roads by rainfall and transported by the runoff water in the sewer and then in the river by CSO spills [Petrovic et al., 2012, Brion et al., 2012]. These pollutants tend to accumulate in the river sediments and are a major impediment to aquatic life development. Therefore, structural work as well as management strategies need to be developed and implemented in order to reduce the frequency and impact of CSO events.

Table 1. Basic statistics on the New Maelbeek CSO for the years 2012-2015

Table 1. Basic statistics on the New Maelbeek CSO for the years 2012-2015
  • 2 In this study, infiltration includes all of the sources of parasitic clear water that enter the sew (...)

6The objective of this work is to identify whether extraneous bodies in the sewer system influence the frequency and volumes of storm water overflowed into the River Zenne and what could be gained by limiting these occurrences and their influence. In this study, based on a systematic inspection and analysis of the long time data series available in Flowbru, two influencing factors have been identified: the parasitic clear water infiltration2 and excessive sewer sediment accumulation.

7Firstly, a new methodology has been developed to quantify on a day-to-day basis the clear water infiltrated volumes treated by the North WWTP. The consequence of the infiltration on sewer system efficiency is addressed and the possible gain that could be achieved by limiting it is discussed.

8Secondly, via a simple data consolidation approach, the evolution of the sewer sediment height near the overflow structure is computed. Computational techniques are implemented to increase the temporal span of the data time series, and the dynamics of sediment accumulation is studied.

1.1. Parasitic clear water infiltration

9Parasitic clear water is defined as water devoid of organic and inorganic pollutants that enters the sewer system through wrong connections or broken pipes. There are multiple locations where groundwater and small streams enter the sewer system. There are even places where this is done on purpose so as to keep the water table elevation under control at a certain level. However this additional water can increase the water level in the sewer significantly during dry weather conditions as well as the amount of water that needs to be treated at the WWTP. Therefore, it is important to know the volumes of parasitic clear water infiltration along with its inter-annual and seasonal variations.

10Several methods to quantify the infiltrated clear water have been developed in the past few decades. Those methods can be based on high-temporal water quality monitoring such as chemical oxygen demand (COD) or water sample analysis to determine the isotopic signature of the different sources of water [Bertrand-Krajewski et al., 2006, Houhou et al., 2010, Bareš et al., 2012]. These methods have proven to work well in different locations but can be difficult to implement. They also need considerable input in terms of time and money [Bertrand-Krajewski et al. 2006]. The ever-growing amount of hydrometry data in modern cities represents an opportunity to study the infiltration pattern without a need for complex and costly analytical surveys to be conducted. The present study proposes a method to quantify the parasitic clear water based on a simple water quantity budget and an anthropogenic tracer detected at the outlet of the drainage system, namely ammonium nitrogen NH4+.

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          Notes

          1 One CSO event is defined in this work as a discharge recorded in the New Maelbeek CSO that lasts at least 10 minutes (two measures) and is preceded and followed by three hours of dry weather conditions (no overflow measured).

          2 In this study, infiltration includes all of the sources of parasitic clear water that enter the sewer system. This includes, among other sources, groundwater infiltration and stream inflow (e.g. the Molenbeek stream).

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          Table des illustrations

          Titre Figure 1
          Légende The green area shows the Maelbeek catchment with the New Maelbeek Overflow structure (blue star). The brown lines show the Brussels main collectors and the red line highlights the Brussels Right collector. The blue line represents roughly the limits of the Brussels North technical watershed.
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-1.png
          Fichier image/png, 365k
          Titre Table 1. Basic statistics on the New Maelbeek CSO for the years 2012-2015
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-2.png
          Fichier image/png, 38k
          Titre Equation 1
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-3.png
          Fichier image/png, 13k
          Titre Figure 2. Parasitic clear water infiltration in the Brussels North Watershed from 2008 to 2016
          Légende The red squares show the infiltrated volumes computed during dry days, and the blue line shows the general trend.
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-4.png
          Fichier image/png, 102k
          Titre Figure 3. Comparison of the normalised water level in two collectors subject to different infiltration rates
          Légende The red line represents the Molenbeek-Laeken collector and the blue dots, the Broekbeek collector.
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-5.png
          Fichier image/png, 136k
          Titre Figure 4. Comparison of the discharge flowing towards the North WWTP measured with two different principles
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-6.png
          Fichier image/png, 237k
          Titre Equation 2
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-7.png
          Fichier image/png, 10k
          Titre Equation 3
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-8.png
          Fichier image/png, 7,5k
          Titre Equation 4
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-9.png
          Fichier image/png, 10k
          Titre Figure 5. Points of interest for the construction of the Neural Network model
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-10.png
          Fichier image/png, 180k
          Titre Figure 6. Comparison of the measured water level in Brussels Right collector (blue line) and the modelled water level with the NN model for the year 2012
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-11.png
          Fichier image/png, 160k
          Titre Figure 7. Sewer sediment thickness evolution in the vicinity of the overflow of the New Maelbeek CSO from 2011 to 2016
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-12.png
          Fichier image/png, 283k
          Titre Figure 8. Flowbru screenshot of the water level measured in the Brussels Right collector (blue line) and CSO discharge in the New Maelbeek CSO (black lines)
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-13.png
          Fichier image/png, 128k
          Titre Figure 9. Comparison of the sewer sediment accumulation profile measured between the New Maelbeek overflow structure and the North WWTP
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1519/img-14.png
          Fichier image/png, 106k
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          Référence électronique

          Nicolas de Ville et Michel Verbanck, « Water management in Brussels: knowledge gained from the long time data series of the Flowbru regional telemetry system », Brussels Studies [En ligne], Collection générale, n° 111, mis en ligne le 22 mai 2017, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/1519  ; DOI : 10.4000/brussels.1519

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          Auteurs

          Nicolas de Ville

          Nicolas de Ville is a bio-engineer who specialized in water engineer with a master thesis on Riverbed drinking water production system in Bolivia. After University, he worked for six months as a project manager on the implementation of Aquaponics system in Kathmandu, Nepal. For the last four years he has been working as a researcher in the Department of Water Pollution Control at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on the valorization of hydrometry data (Flowbru) to address Brussels Water and Waste water management problems. The latest publication is: de Ville, N., H.M., Le, Schmidt, L. and Verbanck, M.A., 2017. Data-mining analysis of in-sewer infiltration patterns: seasonal characteristics of clear water seepage into Brussels main sewer. In: Urban Water Journal. Submitted. ndeville[at]ulb.ac.be

          Michel Verbanck

          Michel Verbanck is a Brussels-born water engineer with more than 30 years experience addressing environmental hydraulics issues. He specializes in water & wastewater management in large urban areas, environmental metrology, data mining, contaminated sediment management and alluvial hydraulics. The patents & publications (incl. 2 books) he authored in these research fields are listed at: http://www.ulb.ac.be/polytech/stepfree/publications. His expertise led him to become: Chairman of the Belgian Committee of the International Water Association; Chairman of the “Water Quality” Task Group of the Intnl Scheldt Commission; invited into PhD Jurys, nationally and internationally. Presently he teaches environmental technology at ULB-VUB Brussels Faculty of Engineering, and heads the Dept Water Pollution Control (Ecole Polytechnique de Bruxelles). mikeverb[at]ulb.ac.be

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