2018 UK-China Workshop on Water-Wise Cities and Smart Water Systems

WISE CDT student Ioanna Stamataki was selected as an Early Career Researcher (ECR) to attend the 2018 UK-China Workshop on Water-Wise Cities and Smart Water Systems in Xi’an, China. The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Centre for Water Systems, University of Exeter, UK and the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, China, and the grant for the UK participants was offered from the British Council’s Newton Fund.

The aim of the workshop was to work as an exchange platform, in order to develop collaborations between the two research communities. It was separated in three sessions per day, each followed by a discussion and the sessions were on “Technologies for water cities and smart water systems”, “System analyses and modelling” and “Case studies”.

On the first day, we were welcomed by Prof. Xiaochang Wang and Prof. Guangtao Fu. The day then started with two keynote lectures first from Prof. Nanqi Ren from the Harbin Institute of Technology, China, entitled “Concept of Sponge City Construction” and then followed by Prof. David Butler from the University of Exeter, UK, entitled “Sustainable and resilient ester infrastructure: The Safe & SuRe Project”.

Prof. Nanqi Ren presented the concept of Sponge Cities and explained that the essence belongs to the integrated solutions of urban water resources and environment. The sponge city is applying a grey and green approach to cities using sustainable drainage, reused water, wetlands and recovery of energy and recourses and ultimately is aiming towards an integrated system with smart technologies. Prof. Butler, talked about the Safe & SuRe which’s aim is to develop a new paradigm for urban water management and defined the meaning of safe (minimising failure probability), resilient (design systems that are safe to fail) and sustainable (providing service beyond its design life) systems using this concept. He also talked about different intervention frameworks, applications and potential strategies. Later that day, Prof. Xiaochang Wang from Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology during his keynote lecture talked about the “Water cycle management WCM for water-wise cities/communities” were he argued that WCM can be taken as the basic principle for urban water system planning.

There were many interesting talks during the three-day workshop on topics related to urban flooding, water cycle management, removal of emerging contaminants, rainfall measurement, flood mapping and many others. What came up in most discussions was that we are entering an era of unprecedented variability, with black swan events, where doing more with less is essential and we need to move from a nature and engineering dependent approach towards a method where we engineer in nature. What was also interesting throughout the workshop was to realise how different the approaches were between China and the UK especially in terms of scale. Most of the case studies of the UK participants are individual households, villages or small towns compared to the case studies presented by the Chinese participants where for example the concept of the sponge city has been applied to 30 cities. Of course, there are challenges, problems that need to be overcome and systems that need to be put in place for long-term monitoring purposes, but the Chinese government is moving quickly with top-down approaches to deal with the issues China is facing.

Ioanna gave a talk on her research during the “Systems analysis and modelling” session on the second day, entitled “A wall of water: Advanced hydraulic modelling for flood risk analysis”. Overall, the workshop was an inspiring experience. It was a great opportunity for Ioanna to talk about several aspects of her research interests and be part of interesting discussions with a variety of people.

Xi’an is the ancient Chinese capital and during the Han Dynasty it was called “Chang’an” which means “permanent peace”. It is was considered as one of the “Four Ancient Civilisations of the World” and was also the start of the Silk Road. Between the incredible banquet gala dinner and the workshop, Ioanna found some time to explore the city and visit the Terracotta Army Warriors, considered the eight wonder of the world. It was constructed more than 2000 years ago but was only discovered in 1974 while some farmers were digging a well. It consists of 8,000 unique soldiers guarding Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who’s mausoleum is located close to the area.

Ioanna would like to take this opportunity to thank Prof. Guangtao Fu, Dr Fanlin Meng and Prof. Xiaochang Wang for organising such an incredible event, the British Council’s Newton Fund and of course all the other participants for such an interesting 3 days.