Supporting increasing ambitions to use urban canals

Paper presentation by Suzanne van der Meulen

Urban canals and canalized rivers are being used for many different human uses. We investigated current and future use in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Toronto (Canada). Our results show that demand for most use functions will increase by 2040. This increase is most prominent for transportation, for thermal energy extraction for heating and cooling of buildings, and for recreation including swimming. Besides, demand for new uses is emerging such as the beneficial use of products from waterway maintenance and local climate regulation.

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The changes in demand for urban surface water uses in Amsterdam and Toronto are driven by developments that occur in many cities such as climate change, urban regeneration and sustainability ambitions. With increasing pressure to use urban surface water for different uses, it becomes important to get insight into the suitability of urban canals for desired use functions and how this may be improved. Such insights will support function-oriented planning, design and maintenance of urban surface water. This may be useful for existing waters but also for new water bodies that are created in urban regeneration areas or as part of climate change adaptation strategies. Suitability indices can be used to assess suitability based on a water bodies’ characteristics. The suitability analysis also shows which attributes of the water body should be altered to improve suitability. A study in Amsterdam and Ghent (Belgium) shows how the suitability of urban canals and canalized rivers can be improved for transportation, thermal energy extraction and swimming. First, we rated current suitability on a five-class scale: unsuitable, low, fair, good or excellent. In most parts of the water system in Amsterdam, suitability for thermal energy extraction is rated ‘good’, suitability for transportation is ‘fair’ and for recreation suitability is ‘low’. An indicative analysis in Ghent shows comparable suitability for transport and swimming; for thermal energy extraction results are uncertain. Second, we assessed which waterbody characteristics should be altered to improve suitability. The outcomes of this analysis will be presented in detail for Amsterdam and will be compared with the indicative analysis in Ghent. The outcomes can be used by urban planners, designers and water managers to optimize urban waters for important human uses.

This research is part of AMS project URBAN PULSE II * Van der Meulen, E. S., Sutton, N. B., van de Ven, F. H. M., van Oel, P. R., & Rijnaarts, H. H. M. (2020). Trends in Demand of Urban Surface Water Extractions and in Situ Use Functions. Water Resources Management, 34(15), 4943-4958. 

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Header image: watercity.jpg