© Studio Octopi / Picture Plane

A clean river is the new challenge for smart cities

Posted on 19 November 2014.

What about cleaning up the river so that city folk can swim in it? It may sound crazy, but nevertheless it is the environmental and urban challenge that several cities have set themselves.

"In five years’ time, we will be able to swim in the Seine again.” More than 20 years after the famous promise made by Jacques Chirac – who in 1988 was seeking a third term as mayor of Paris - it is still forbidden to bathe in the Seine in Paris (French). However, other cities in Europe and the United States are in the process of getting their rivers back as a result of a lot of clean-up operations and urban development projects. Here are 3 other projects that are worth keeping a close eye on.

Filtering East River water with a floating pool

Inspired by the example of Copenhagen, some New York architects have designed a floating pool that could filter the water of the East River "like a giant strainer" and get rid of bacteria and pollutants. Called + Pool, the device could clean almost 2 million liters of water a day according to its inventors, who have made a dashboard that measures the cleanliness of the bay water in real time available to their fellow citizens. Made popular via a crowdfunding platform, the project has also aroused the interest of the engineering consultancy Arup. Prototype filters are in the testing phase and the + Pool should be ready in 2017.

Plus Pool in New York
Credits : The Office of PlayLab, Inc.

Save the Thames with London’s "super-sewer"

Across the channel, the bane of the Thames is a sewer system dating from the Victorian era that frequently overflows when it rains and pours gallons of sewage into the river (the equivalent of 8 billion toilet flushes every year). To remedy this, a "super-sewer" project has just been agreed by London’s City Hall. By 2023, a 25 km long tunnel will traverse the city from east to west collecting wastewater and routing it to a treatment center. Enough to make the Thames clearer and inspire local architects. Studio Octopi, which is part of the very serious Thames Baths group, plans to create natural pools in which wildlife will be able to flourish once more.

A wave of change in Rotterdam

In Rotterdam, a canal is set to become a water recreation area in summer 2015. You’ll be able to surf a 1.5 meter artificial wave, go kayaking, body boarding or just swim. The RIF010 project won the competitive tender organized by the city to revitalize downtown Rotterdam. In addition to its recreational aspects, the artificial wave - a 100% green technology developed by the University of Delft - will also purify the canal water using micro-sieve filters. In addition, the revenue from the waterpark will finance the construction of wind turbines.

These cities are far from being isolated examples: Helsinki, Montreal, Reykjavik and Dublin, to name a few, also dream of having a completely unpolluted river or port. Every year European citizens join in the Big Jump, diving into lakes, rivers, seas, to attract the attention of their leaders to this environmental issue. See you in the water on July 12!

Find out more:

- Facebook page Laboratoire des Baignades Urbaines (French)
- The website for the "Thames Baths" in London
- The "Plus Pool" project in New York
- RIF010 project in Rotterdam