Strategic regional influence and tools for practitioners: BSR WATER results

Over three years of implementation, the BSR WATER platform continued enhancing practical cooperation in the water sector of the Baltic Sea Region and providing input into the regional policies. The topical scope of the platform has been wide: strategical and technological approaches to nutrient recycling, practices and regional takes on addressing hazardous substances, local and regional level recommendations and practices for sustainable stormwater management, and holistic cross-sectoral cooperation along the water-sludge-energy nexus.

Over the project duration, BSR WATER provided a significant input into the regional policies. Already in the scope of this project, the platform accumulated, synthesised, prepared, submitted – and received an acceptance! – of several strategic policy briefs and recommendations. The variety of results, produced in the platform, are not only shaping the regional decision-making plane, but can also be used by different regional stakeholders, including practitioners in the water sector.

What BSR WATER has to offer?

Sustainable stormwater management in BSR cities

Increased and heavier rainfalls affecting the Baltic Sea Region due to the climate change have their strongest impact on the densely built urban areas. The need to adapt cities to the climate change risks and challenges is clear – and so the BSR WATER platform explored this theme based on its involved projects, as well as through exchanging experiences among project partners, EU and Russian regional stakeholders and UBC Member Cities.

The resulting publication “Regional and national policy recommendations for implementing the integrated stormwater management in the Baltic Sea Region” was prepared by the Riga City Council after a set of surveys and interviews with 25 BSR cities to establish local and national regulation specifics and learn about the applied management approaches. Many of the cities were UBC Member Cities – known forerunners in the Baltic Sea Region! The publication provides recommendations for cities to apply, based on the overarching idea of the importance of taking up the Integrated Stormwater Management (ISWM) approach.

In fact, ISWM is no longer just one concept among many others – throughout the platform duration, the project partner HELCOM launched the process of revising the Recommendation 23/5 on Reduction of discharges from urban areas by proper management of storm water systems. Originally adopted in 2002, the updated recommendation was greatly supplied with the experiences synthesised in the BSR WATER consortium.

As of 4 June 2021, the recommendation for storm water planning states that ISWM should be applied in future urban development processes at all levels. Instead of a narrow focus on a single problem, ISWM enables a holistic stormwater management approach: studying the characteristics of specific cites and areas, understanding the relevant impacts, and tailoring a comprehensive array of tools to individual situation.

Such tools – as well as good practices, solutions and innovations – can be found in the Baltic Smart Water Hub, portal developed in BSR WATER. Launched and supported by the UBC Sustainable Cities Commission, the portal is also a useful tool for our Member Cities to exchange with the peers from other countries. Browse examples from around the Baltic Sea Region!

But, perhaps, you’ve missed some of our events and would like to study the stormwater management subject further? We can recommend a couple of webinars:

Safe nutrient recycling: strategies and practices

The future is circular, that much is certain. With nutrient recycling, we open up a large field of opportunities (and inevitable challenges). Nutrients are vital for our society, but the widespread use of fertilisers has caused one of the major problems in BSR: eutrophication. On the level of the wastewater treatment, as one of the main point sources of phosphorus entering the environment, advance measures have been taken over the last decades to reduce the nutrients input into the Baltic Sea. But where does the phosphorus come from to the European market in the first place? It is largely imported from countries outside of the EU, with only limited raw availability locally. All in all, phosphorus is essential to the food security in Europe – but it should be treated more sustainably, and a circular approach needs to be introduced, as to any limited resource.

The publication “Palette of Solutions for Nutrient Recycling in the Baltic Sea Region” was developed in BSR WATER by the University of Tartu jointly with HELCOM and consequently published by HELCOM as an input into the developing Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy. This document explores feasible solutions for nutrients and phosphorus recovery primarily from wastewater and sludge, for their possible future reuse.

Some practical examples on nutrient recovery from Finland, Germany and the Netherlands can be found in the Baltic Smart Water Hub:

In the nutrient recycling process, it is crucial to secure the safety of the resources – and here the hazardous substances come into view. To learn more about different approaches to this, you can hear directly from the experts, let us recommend two event recordings:

Circular cooperation model for the water cycle

And what about the circular cooperation along the wider water cycle? BSR WATER dived into this subject as well, looking into the complex cross-sectoral cooperation and considered necessary factors influencing Water-Sludge-Energy nexus. This work was based on cases collected from the different water projects and supplied by established expert network. The result includes guidelines for a cooperation model among main stakeholders dealing with water, wastewater, energy, sludge and biogas production.

The publication “Guidelines on integrated model for Water-Sludge-Energy cooperation” was developed by the University of Tartu to outline possible points of cooperation for the wastewater treatment plants – incoming and outgoing, with the first being about different streams of materials coming into the WWTP and the second about resources or energy that can be produced within the WWTP or even transported out. Each point of cooperation is outlined with a description of the recommendation, potential financial balance of the recommendation and examples of the actions. Incoming points of cooperation also include an overview of different important parameters and potential overall effects to the WWTP, to help the stakeholders in making informed decisions.

Examples from the cooperation model opportunities can be located in the Baltic Smart Water Hub:

And, if you feel like rewatching an inspiring event discovering the opportunities for a more resource-efficient water sector, recording and presentations await your attention:

Epilogue

Platforms are characterised by the opportunity for a wonderful and truly multilevel cooperation. We got to work closely with the project partners, cooperate with seven large transnational projects with own consortia, were privileged to learn about projects operated by our partners outside of the platform scope, managed to visit most interesting events (while it was still pre-new-normal-times; and followed a multitude of fantastic online events after), and all that was possible with the funding and support from the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. Thank you to everyone involved in the BSR WATER platform, and as always, we look forward to future cooperation!