An example of an unsealed area in Ghent, Source: City of Ghent

Ghent acts against diminishing water supplies

Ghent acts against diminishing water supplies

Local authorities have decided to try and unseal as much of the soil as possible, while creating rainwater wells

Yesterday, the Belgian city of Ghent declared that they will take steps to, what they call, ‘soften the public domain’, meaning steps towards unsealing the soil wherever it is possible, promoting urban greenery and encouraging the creation of rainwater retention wells.

The move was provoked by a study, commissioned by the local administration on drought, water retention and a structural water shortage caused by global warming.

Designed to get the water out of the city

According to the study, the water shortage in Ghent has multiple causes outside of climate change. One of the contributing factors is the city’s 41% paved land area. Furthermore, the rain drainage system has traditionally been designed to ship rainfall away from the city via rivers, dykes, canals and sewers. A further portion of the groundwater is contaminated by leaking sewers.

These factors contribute to a gradual diminishing of the water reserves of the city, pushing the costs of agriculture and industry up. Overall, the study estimates that Ghent diverts out the equivalent of 14 Olympic swimming pools every winter.

Softening the public domain: Unseal the soil

The city plans to unseal as much soil as possible and increase greenery. This will help the process of groundwater replenishment, as rain has a better chance of flowing through the natural reservoirs. They call this measure ‘softening the public domain’ but it also extends to private households. ‘Softening’ broadly refers to blunting the effects of concrete and soil sealing.

Another measure by the city includes the expansion of existing green roof and façade programmes, to cover more households. Also, local authorities will probably provide additional incentives for people who unseal portions of their gardens by removing tiles, making front yards greener, and making rainwater wells.

At the same time, the city will look into improving water retention in agricultural and industrial areas, as well. Tine Heyse, Alderman for Environment and Climate, was quoted in a press release, saying: “We are doing everything we can to accelerate softening of our public domain. Yet we cannot do it alone. That is why we also call on watercourse managers, project developers, developers, companies and residents of Ghent to participate.”



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