Protecting the Baltic Sea from untreated wastewater spillages during flood events in urban areas
Interreg Baltic Sea Region NOAH
Better urban planning, better control of the urban drainage system, shared knowledge in the Baltic Sea region.
Tallinn University of TechnologyTalTech (EE) is the Lead Partner of NOAH with vast experience of international projects and a strong research group in environmental engineering. The team consists of Nils Kändler, Ivar Annus and Katrin Kaur (from the left in the photo) as well as Anatoli Vassiljev and Liina Kotkas.
Satakunta University of Applied SciencesSAMK (FI) is responsible for the communication of the NOAH project, ensuring smooth cooperation between the project partners, associated organizations as well as stakeholders throughout NOAH's lifespan. The team consists of Minna Keinänen-Toivola, Hanna Rissanen (in the photo) and Leila Tasku.
Gdansk University of TechnologyGUT (PL) is one of the experts of environmental engineering in the NOAH project with profound academic experience in the technical, economic and environmental aspects of urban runoff management. The team consists of Magdalena Gajewska and Piotr Zima.
City of RakvereRakvere (EE) is one of the partner towns and pilot areas of the NOAH project. They will lead the data acquisition from urban drainage systems and share knowledge on smart city solutions. The team consists of Erkki Leek and Angeelika Pärna.
Liepaja municipal authority "Komunālā pārvalde"Liepaja(LV) is one of the partner towns of the NOAH project and serves as one of the pilot areas and shares experience in mitigating the effects of high sea water levels and untreated wastewater spillages. The team consists of Mārtiņš Herbsts and Egils Muižulis.
Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKELUKE (FI) is one of the research institutions in the NOAH project. Luke is specialized in environmental monitoring and has strong competence in environmental risk assessment. The team consists of Marja-Liisa Vieraankivi and Virpi Vorne.
Estonian Waterworks Association EVELEVEL (EE) is one of the umbrella organizations of water companies in NOAH. EVEL has vast knowledge in the field of water operators and they will provide network input and disseminate the results of NOAH. The team consists of Irina Vahtra, Marju Murumets and Pille Aarma.
City of PoriPori (FI) is one of the partner towns and pilot areas of the NOAH project. Pori has profound knowledge on river flood control and on sustaining runoff water quality in case of high water levels. In addition, Pori has special expertise on assessing the risk of ice-blockages and protecting urban areas by dikes. The team consists of Taina Koivisto, Pekka Vuola (in the photo) and Aleksi Siirtola.
Halmstad UniversityHalmstad University (SE) is the expert of knowledge and risk management in the NOAH project. With excellent competence in environmental impact assessment, they are in charge of evaluating the consequences of climate scenarios focusing on extensive runoff and discharge. The team consists of Susanne Durst, Sylvia Waara and Pia Ulvenblad.
Economic Chamber Polish Waterworks IGWPIGWP (PL) is one of the umbrella organizations of water companies in the NOAH project. IGWP has vast knowledge in the field of Polish water utilities and an extensive cooperation network in the Baltic Sea region. IGWP distributes the results and achievements of NOAH and supports municipalities in including the new solutions into their everyday planning processes. The team consists of Natalia Przepierska and Klara Ramm.
Riga Technical UniversityRTU (LV) is one of the academies in the NOAH project with high experience in data management and hydrodynamic modelling. In NOAH, RTU leads the process of validating and generalizing the test results of reducing urban runoff-driven water quality impairments. The team consists of Maris Kalinka, Andrejs Zubanics, Marta Zemite and Janis Rubulis.
Ogre municipalityOgre (LV) is one of the partner towns and pilot areas of NOAH. Ogre shares their experience in mitigating high water level impacts on urban drainage systems and untreated wastewater spillages. Ogre also tests automate hydrological stations and provides data for the Real Time Control implementation. The team consists of Liene Zilina and Edgars Parpucis.
Slupsk Water SupplySlupsk Water Supply (PL) is one of the water companies in the NOAH project. Slupsk Water Supply has competence in urban drainage planning with special emphasize on separating stormwater from wastewater systems. In NOAH, they lead the process of increasing institutional capacity of urban run-off management, aiming for reducing wastewater spillages. The team consists of Robert Zmuda-Trzebiatowski, Jolanta Fracka and Remigiusz Lyszyk.
Technical University of DenmarkDTU (DK) is the leading academy investigating real time controlling of the urban drainage systems in Europe. In NOAH, DTU shares their expertise of Real Time Control algorithms and leads the process of RTC modelling and model based data validation. The team consists of Morten Borup and Jonas Wied Pedersen.
Jurmalas Udens LtdJurmalas Udens Ltd (LV) is one of the water companies in the NOAH project. Jurmala has special knowledge on river-sea interactions and their effects on urban drainage systems. In NOAH, Jurmalas Udens will share their experience in mitigating high water level impacts on urban drainage network and bring hands-on practical experience into developing NOAH control measures. The team consists of Zanda Kocere-Vika, Aivars Kamarūts and Kristīne Bendža.
Municipality of SöderhamnSöderhamn (SE) is one of the partner towns and pilot areas of NOAH. Söderhamn has vast competence in urban planning and risk level monitoring regarding extreme weather events. In the project, Söderhamn leads the process of creating better urban planning and enhanced risk mitigation. The team consists of Camilla Bergström, Ingemar Olofsson, Margareta Örn-Liljedahl (in the photo) and Maria Svensson.
Project pilot sites
The NOAH project aims to protect the Baltic Sea from untreated wastewater spillages during flood events in urban areas. In the process of creating the NOAH concept, the methods of storm water management, spatial planning and real-time control of urban drainage systems are tested as a holistic entity in selected NOAH pilot areas. The sites 1) are situated next to the natural water body (sea, river, channel) connected directly to the Baltic Sea where extra flow rates in the urban drainage system poses a risk of wastewater spillages during extreme weather events, 2) have an existing urban drainage system built, 3) have potential for further planning activities such as new house blocks, parking lots etc. The aim of the pilot activities is to test and implement a set of solutions which as the NOAH concept are scalable to any urban area in the Baltic Sea region.
Site description Söderhamn is a coastal municipality located in the bay of Söderhamn, at the outlet of the Söderalaån river. The pilot area was chosen because the central parts of Söderhamn are most severely affected when heavy rainfall occurs. In addition, some densification of the area is expected to happen with new buildings, changes in park areas and streets. The Söderhamn pilot area consists of 11 sub-catchments. Four of them have outlets to a natural stream and the rest to the narrow bay of the Baltic Sea. Most of the outlets to the bay are submerged. The stormwater from e.g. roofs is still directed to the sewer system and therefore there are several combined sewer overflow (CSO) structures. However, these CSOs are equipped with backflow valves to prevent seawater from entering the sewer.
NOAH actions A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is created for the area and calibrated on the basis of water flow measurements. No Real-Time Control (RTC) installations are made in the Söderhamn pilot site, since the stormwater system has enough capacity because of the multiple outlets. The real problems in Söderhamn are related to sea level rise, so the focus is on urban planning improvement.
The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) as a planning tool to create more flood resilient urban space is the main outcome of the modelling. Flood risk maps for three different climate scenarios are embedded to the municipality’s urban planning procedure (current situation, RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). This allows urban planners to evaluate the impact of any development plan on the area’s climate resilience. Additionally, green areas of the pilot area are mapped and visible in the EWL.
Site description Pori is a town on the south-west coast of Finland, located about 10 km from the Gulf of Bothnia on the estuary of the Kokemäenjoki river. The NOAH pilot area is the Suntinoja ditch catchment area from where water flows into the Kokemäenjoki river, which is the 4th largest waterbody catchment area in Finland. The catchment area consists of fields, forests and an urban residential area. The ground surface is flat, which increases drainage problems and stormwater and snowmelt flood threat. In addition to the risk to property, flooding also increases harmful contaminant and nutrient flow to the Baltic Sea. The Suntinoja ditch was originally designed for drainage of agricultural areas, so its capacity may not be large enough in heavy rainfall situations, and may begin to flood residential areas through stormwater drains. Ice blockages during winter that raise the water level in the pilot area are observed, as river floods are also a significant problem in the city of Pori.
NOAH actions Main ditches of the area are mapped, and calibration measurements are carried out by the city of Pori. A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is created for the pilot area. The modelling determines the effects of different types of heavy rainfall events and can be used to examine the impact of residential construction on Suntinoja’s capacity. The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) as a planning tool for a more flood resilient urban space is an outcome of the modelling.
Additionally, water sampling is conducted to analyze the quality of the stormwater and for modelling it in different flood situations. No actual Real-Time Control (RTC) installations are made in the Pori pilot site. The outflow from the system is not restricted, as the outlet pump has a large capacity, and the system performs similarly in terms of flooding throughout the city. The actual problem in Pori is mostly linked to the water level changes in the surrounding ditches and the related risk of flooding.
Site description Rakvere is a municipality in northern Estonia, 20 km south of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. There are two waterbodies in Rakvere, Soolikaoja creek and Tobia mainditch. The Tobia mainditch flows down to the Soolikaoja creek, the Soolikaoja flows down to Selja river and the Selja flows to the Baltic Sea. The Tobia mainditch catchment area is 31,8 km² and the Soolikaoja catchment area 122,1 km². The selected pilot area is located in the middle of the town. According to the climate scenarios, this area has the highest risk of flooding.
NOAH actions A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) of the area is created, calibrated and validated based on measurements made on the site. A movable weir with Real-Time Control (RTC), is installed in the Süsta pond (section of Soolikaoja creek) to reduce flooding in the downstream city. The Smart Weirwall System (SWS) also consists of two water level sensors: one installed in a manhole and the other in the Süsta pond. The weirwall height adjusts on the basis of these sensors. Additionally, the overflow edge was raised by 30cm, providing additional depth and storage capacity in the pond. Thus, the pond acts as a reservoir to temporarily hold surplus stormwater until the downstream tunnel has the capacity to receive more water.
The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) as a planning tool for more flood resilient urban space is also created for the pilot area. It is implemented with a dynamic feature allowing the municipality to create flood risk maps for different development scenarios and future climate change projections. EWL maps for three climate scenarios are created for the Rakvere pilot site (current situation, RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5).
Site description Haapsalu is a town on West Estonia’s Baltic coast, located in an oasis typical of the north-west coast of Estonia. The town’s coastline length is 18 km and the area 10.6 km². A total of 67% of the town area is covered with greenery (parks, recreational areas etc.). Due to the coastline length and ground elevation, the city is open to seawater flooding. Old drainage systems, bottlenecks in pipelines and incomplete information on the town’s drainage system are contributing to stormwater floods and overflows. The pilot area is divided into two, corresponding to actual stormwater system catchment areas.
NOAH actions The stormwater systems are mapped (SWMM), and water samples are taken from stormwater outflows. The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) is created for the area as a planning tool for more flood resilient urban space. The EWL can be used to simulate the stormwater system’s response to extreme weather events based on different climate change scenarios.
The existing poor-quality dam of the wetland, which is the buffer for stormwater outflow before the Baltic Sea, is replaced with a new automatic weirwall (Smart Weirwall System-SWS). The new system consists of a moveable gate and two sensors. The position of the weirwall is adjusted automatically based on the wetland and seawater level sensors. The system helps with flood protection by using Real-Time Control (RTC) to prevent seawater backflow in case the sea level rises higher than the water level in the wetland. It also allows sufficient retention time for the urban stormwater to be purified in the wetland before releasing the water to the sea!
Site description Jurmala is situated on the southernmost shore of the Gulf of Riga, 25 km west of the capital Riga. The city has an elongated shape and is located between two water bodies – river Lielupe in the South and the Gulf of Riga in the North. The pilot area consists mainly of forested areas and low-rise residential buildings. The landscape can be characterized as rather flat. Roofs constitute around 9.5% and paved roads up to 14% of the total catchment area. The stormwater collection system is a separate sewer system with several sanitary sewer connections from households. Run-off is conveyed by gravity pipelines and roadside ditches. The system discharges into the Lielupe river and flows to the Baltic Sea. The pilot area has been distributed into three main sections – A, B and C (see the photos). The sections are actual stormwater catchments, chosen in order to study the city area evenly.
NOAH actions A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is created for the pilot area. The main investment in Jurmala is an automatic hydrological station (AHS). The purpose of an AHS is to develop better process control and management system in regard to the city’s stormwater and wastewater system as well as their potential interaction, especially during heavy rain events. This includes not only the modelling but also precipitation, stormwater level and wastewater flow measurements as well as stormwater sampling. Local meteo stations, automatic samplers with level sensors and flow meters are installed in the pilot site. The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) is also created for the area as a planning tool that simulates the stormwater system’s response to extreme weather events based on different climate change scenarios.
Site description Ogre is located alongside the Ogre river approximately 50 km from the Baltic Sea coastline. The pilot area of Ogre has been selected due to its significant flood problem and estimated future challenges caused by climate change. The focus is on the Loka street neighborhood (between AHS1 and AHS2 – see the photos), which has developed from a low swampy meadow. The Loka street area’s surface water run-off drains into the Ogre river through open ditches. When the river’s water level rises e.g. due to ice blockages in the spring, the stormwater outlet gets blocked, resulting in flooding.
Due to intensive detached housing construction, part of the ditches have been arbitrarily filled or the culvert elevation marks have been misaligned. This has led to a loss of functionality of the existing drainage network. To control surface run-off, the municipality must provide rainwater drainage from the street and adjacent areas by creating a single network. Therefore, the municipality has started the gradual construction of a rain drainage piping system, which is supported by NOAH installations.
NOAH actions A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is created for the area. Measurements of the Ogre riverbed upwards from Daugava river water reservoir are performed (including measurement data processing and cartographic material preparation). Sensory locations as well as the technical design of the Automatic Hydrological Stations (AHS) are identified and evaluated. A total of three AHS are installed in Ogre, consisting of e.g. water level meters and flow meters. With the help of the AHS, water level and water flow in the river can be monitored in real-time.
The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) is also created for the pilot area as a tool to assists in spatial planning and flood risk prediction. An additional 3D river flood model, specific to the Ogre pilot site, is created. The model was generated from a combined drone-created point-cloud and LIDAR distance data. The model results are used in short-term forecasting (24 h), that also works as an alarm system in case there is a flood-warning on the Ogre river. The alarm system informs the potentially affected citizens via SMS or e-mail.
Site description Liepaja is located in western Latvia, between the Baltic Sea and the lake of Liepaja. The NOAH pilot areas are located in two separate locations in the city – Tebras Street catchment basin and Cietokšņa channel areas. Most of the area is occupied by low-rise residential buildings, and impervious surfaces consist of roofs (42%) and paved roads (8% of total area). The stormwater sewer outlet of the Tebras street catchment discharges water into the Lake of Liepaja in the Natura 2000 protection area. There is also a problem related to backflow from the lake with water standing still all the way from the outfall to the pump.
NOAH actions Hydraulic model of the Tebras street catchment basin is developed to (a) clarify how the sewer functions under different circumstances, (b) examine whether it is possible to add new connections to this catchment basin in the future, (c) understand the quality of water drained from the catchment basin. A tidal gate and a pump are installed in the outlet to prevent sea water from backing up into the drainage system.
An Automatic Hydrological Station (AHS) is installed in Liepaja. The AHS consists of e.g. water flow meters (installed in manholes closer to the city center) and water level sensors (installed in the Cietokšņa channel). The northern part of Liepaja nearby Tosmare lake is enclosed by Cietokšņa channel. The level sensors are installed because the territories around the channel are potential flood risk areas and sensors are needed to indicate water level rise in the channel. The main problem in Liepaja is that if the Cietokšņa canal outlet into the Baltic Sea is clogged, the adjacent areas get flooded. The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) as a planning tool for more flood resilient urban space is also created for the pilot area to help predict flood events based on different climate scenarios.
Site description Slupsk is situated in northern Poland, about 20 km from the Baltic Sea coast, on the Slupia river. The selected area (pilot site) does not include the entire sewer system operated by the Słupsk Water Supply but the most densely built-up area of 22km² where both, the separate and combined sewer systems exist. Even though the share of combined sewer system is small, approximately 30% of the total flow originates from the stormwater entering the sewer system via unsealed manholes and pipes. This poses a risk to the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and to the Slupia River, which is the recipient of the overflows. The modelled network has one main outflow from which the wastewater and stormwater is pumped to the WWTP. The excess which cannot be pumped is stored in the retention tank upstream from the pump or discharged to the Slupia River.
NOAH actions A Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is created for the area. To collect data, precipitation meters (rain gauges) with an automatic data archiving system and remote transmission are installed in six locations in the city. In addition, devices for measuring the water level of the main sewage channels are installed in 12 locations. In order to improve the flood issues in the city, there is a need for retaining and delaying water upstream of the affected areas. The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) as a planning tool for more flood resilient urban space is also created for the pilot area to help with planning climate-resilient urban areas.
Pilot site actions & results
The NOAH pilot site actions and results are presented in videos as part of the output 4.2 Visualization of the results. Each video gives a general presentation of the current impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on stormwater systems. The videos consist of a presentation of the NOAH framework, an introduction to the NOAH actions, an overview of the NOAH Extreme Weather Layer tool and lastly, a summary of the NOAH project impacts and positive outcomes. In addition to the pilot site videos, A4-sized leaflets were created, giving the essential information in a summarized format.
Pilot site leaflets
NOAH Tool: Extreme Weather Layer
The Extreme Weather Layer (EWL) is a new tool created in the BSR NOAH project for spatial planning and flood risk mitigation in urban areas. It is built on the model of an existing stormwater system and is a combination of hydraulic modelling, climate scenarios and other urban planning datasets.
The EWL helps experts to prepare for future challenges in the field of water management and to develop the climate-resilience in urban areas. With the assistance of the new planning layer, the most suitable solutions for flood mitigation can be implemented in the areas with the highest flood risk. Further, the effects of the solutions can be analyzed – how the new developments change the flooding risks on plot-level, district-level or city-level in the selected area.
The EWL tool is created for each urban area individually. It is based on the hydraulic model of the urban drainage system (UDS), unique for each city, and the geographic information system (GIS) data of the city, also unique. The EWL is the methodology for combining the model and GIS so that the flood prone areas can be analyzed.
The steps for creating the EWL are described below. Further information on how to set up the EWL can be found in the EWL user manual.
Project outputs & reports
Outputs to be published.
Report on pilot areas and acquired data – 10/2019
Report on climate scenarios selection – 10/2019
Report on modelling results – 4/2020
NOAH O2.4 Report on pilot implementation of Extreme Weather Layer – 1/2021
Taking control of the Urban Drainage System – 10/2019
Report on water quality results – 6/2021
Implementing RTC in urban areas in the Baltic Sea region – 6/2020
NOAH Tool: User manual and documentation – 6/2020
Pilot investments in partner municipalities – 1/2021
Media releases published in 2021
MDPI Water Journal, 19 May 2021: Automatic Calibration Module for an Urban Drainage System Model.
Urban Water Journal, 6 August 2021: Controlling peak runoff from plots by coupling street storage with distributed real time control.
Media releases published in 2020
Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology, Vol. 69, Issue 3, May 2020:
Kändler, N.; Annus, I.; Vassiljev, A.; Puust, R. Real time controlled sustainable urban drainage systems in dense urban areas.
Video by municipality of Söderhamn, 3 September 2020: Stormwater and flooding management.
Project article by Polish NOAH partners, 8 October 2020: Aims and actions of the NOAH project – pilot case Słupsk (pdf).
Media releases published in 2019
Press release, 18 February 2019: Flood control in Baltic Sea cities provides tools for cleaner Baltic Sea (pdf).
Urban Water Journal, 4 June 2019: Peak flow reduction from small catchments using smart inlets.
Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology – Aqua, 2 December 2019: Real time controlled sustainable urban drainage systems in dense urban areas.
News & events
More about NOAH
Floods causing inflows of pollutants into the Baltic Sea
Effective control of the stormwaters in urban areas is one of the biggest environmental challenges in the Baltic Sea region as climate change brings along intense rainfalls and storms. Urban drainage systems are not capable to handle the floods, which rises the risk of flushing untreated wastewater from urban drainage systems into the nature. This is harmful to people and environment due to the excessive amount of nutrients, hazardous substances and pathogenic microbes in wastewater.
Holistic planning and smart drainage systems
Urban areas can be prepared for floods by improved planning and self-adaptive drainage operations. NOAH project brings together nine towns and water utilities, seven academic and research institutions and two umbrella organisations from six countries around the Baltic Sea to join their forces.
NOAH’s approach is to create a concept for holistic planning and implement smart drainage systems in real urban environments. Holistic solutions combine stormwater management with spatial planning. This is followed by development of smart drainage systems to make the existing facilities resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Healthier and cleaner Baltic Sea
The NOAH concept will be easily scalable to any urban area around the Baltic Sea. Implementation of the concept could cut up to half of the inflow of pollutants into the Baltic Sea. The activities will be anchored into daily practices of towns and water utilities, leading to healthier and cleaner Baltic Sea!
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Smart Urban Business research group
NOAH project is part of the international multiscientific Smart Urban Business research work at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Finland. Read more about the research group and other projects: sub.samk.fi.