- Description of the Thematic Line +
Multidisciplinary research in engineering systems will be undertaken to promote the sustainable management of the urban water-energy nexus dealing with risk minimization and efficiency. Our target is to develop the knowledge base to support a reduction of 20% of the water supply in an urban area and 50% of the energy associated to the supply and treatment of the water and wastewater, while keeping quality and security of supply. The Lisbon metropolitan area and the urban areas of the Island of Madeira will serve as case studies and testbeds (e.g. Lisbon city consumes 56Gl of water and 34.9 million kWh for its supply; Madeira consumes 21 Gl). However tools and pilots developed will be able to be replicated elsewhere namely urban areas in developing countries where LARSYS influence extends.
Understanding the complex connections between water and energy in urban areas is only rudimentary nowadays. It requires a deep understanding of engineering systems, including a new generation of sensing devices and systems stimulating smarter citizens.
Absence of clear research and policy priorities concerning the water-energy nexus means that current policy, planning, funding, and evaluation is relatively ad hoc. Social, technical and economic incentives to adopt efficient water and energy technologies have revealed inadequate so far. Water and wastewater processes lack low energy technologies since these processes are designed to run with constant energy supply, while most renewable energy sources provide variable energy supply. Meanwhile, efficient and cost-effective technologies to recover energy from wastewater are not yet fully available. In many countries water is a highly subsidized resource therefore citizens are usually unaware of the real costs involved. The lack of transparency and understanding about the value of water and energy and the systems that provide these resources has led to the overuse and mismanagement of both resources.
We adopt in our scientific program "urban metabolism" as the main conceptual framework. It concerns the flows and conversion processes of all kinds of material and energy, which are mobilized by the water system in order to assure water supply and sanitation at given quantity and quality levels.
The multidisciplinary team involved in the program will contribute to fill these knowledge gaps due to extensive experience namely in runoff modelling; systemic assessment of urban areas; inference and optimization, including large-scale systems (sensing for monitoring environment and critical infrastructures); eco-feedback technologies and behavior change towards sustainability. Different scales of analysis will be undertaken in order to assure a systemic assessment of the water-energy nexus. The analysis will have as major targets:
Automating and crowdsourcing decision processes and decreasing failures in information collection, e.g. with decentralized processing, are difficult challenges that will be addressed. In addition to measurement of environmental variables (e.g., the level of soil moisture) that feed climatic models, sensing that can be directly or indirectly linked to the actions of individuals or groups regarding water and energy consumption is useful to form a multiscale picture of the system.
Modern technologies for data collection at these "finer" scales rely on the widespread availability and massive deployment of miniaturized sensors and actuators, embedded processors, communication networks, and robotic systems, coupled with increasingly sophisticated methods for massive information processing and systems optimization. Contributions to the design and implementation of large-scale monitoring systems as envisaged above are one of the relevant outputs of the proposed research plan.
Eco-feedback has become a prominent focus of sustainable HCI research towards increasing awareness, educating consumers, and promoting more eco-friendly behaviors (citizen/consumer centric approaches like eco-feedback technologies have shown to result in savings from 5-12% for electricity usage).One of the strengths of the team is the integration of HCI design methods such as iterative and participatory design to evaluate early eco-feedback designs before time. Effort will be invested in longitudinal behavioral studies.
- Structure of the Thematic Line +
The thematic area will have a Principal Investigator (PI) and a Management Committee (MC) with members of each research center. This team will be responsible for assuring the integration of the activities of the centers and planning orienting the activities towards the accomplishment of the objectives of the thematic area.
The cooperation between the centers will be fostered through regular meetings (by-monthly) and seminars (each three months) to share results and planning of activities. An annual workshop will be organized to disseminate and discuss the work with stakeholders (municipalities, utilities, citizens). Joint publications will be developed in the form of working papers (larger documents) and scientific journal articles.
The contribution of each center for the overall objective of the thematic area will be:
- Objectives of the Thematic Line +
1. Developing an urban metabolism model of the water-energy nexus. This task aims a systems engineering approach to examine, understand and improve the urban water-energy nexus, offering a structured and quantitative modelling of water needs and pollutant loads as a function of the urban activities (household, industry or services), using Lisbon region as case. Research will focus on developing spatially comprehensive and temporally broad physical models of water-energy consumption of urban centers. Particular attention will be paid to understand full mass balance, energy associated to the processing of such mass and subsequent derivation of performance indicators. This will allow shaping knowledge regarding the efficiency of urban systems. Quantified urban (water and energy) performance indicators will be developed namely to support planning, governance, design and funding decisions. These indicators will include the embodied (life cycle) energy consumption and emissions associated with major cross flows, the emission of pollutants that go with the downstream storm and wastewater, and emissions (or avoided emissions) of outflow resources and wastes from treatment plants.
2. Assessing the potential of new solutions for efficiency of water/energy usage. In this task it will be developed research on combined modelling tools able to simulate the interaction between artificial and natural drainage systems (infiltration and surface flow). This modelling system will be used to identify the fate of rainwater and to quantify the ability to use ground water for irrigation. This model will be used to optimize artificial water supply and to minimize the probability of urban floods. Coupled to the energy budget model and to the life-cycle assessment tool this model will be also used to optimize indirect environmental impacts of water in urban systems. Research will assess technical opportunities for the adoption of local schemes of water "buffering" contributing to increase resilience to floods and supply problems, particularly relevant in scenarios of climate change with more irregular and extreme rainfall regimes. Similarly to current trends in electrical supply networks, where the availability of disaggregated power consumption measurements provided by smart meters enables fine-grained optimization strategies, smart water metering may also prove beneficial and relevant. Potentially, disaggregation may contribute to regularize the demand over time by deferring some consumptions (in coordination with electricity usage), makes it possible to forecast, in short term, the load on the sewage system, and supports the creation of large and detailed user databases that can be mined to assist in establishing policy guidelines and effective individual usage strategies, as discussed below
3. Developing decision-making supporting tools. This strand aims at rationalizing the usage of water and energy resources by improving the understanding of the system (sensing), and by developing tools for efficient operation/management of resources (actuation). As several of the challenges stem from the large-scale nature of deployments, the thematic strand on "Distributed Information Processing and Decision Making" is relevant for the envisaged (decentralized) inference and actuation problems. One of the research directions for sensing will explore multi-sensor systems and HCI techniques to understand human activities related to water/energy and motivate sustainable practices or design new services. It will focus on monitoring energy and water consumption through low-cost non-intrusive systems that detect significant human behaviors based on machine learning. Two test-beds, one in Lisbon metropolitan area, the other in an urban area of Madeira Island, will support the creation and assessment of new sensor-based and context-aware applications, while visualization techniques will close the cycle, providing consumers with in-context information.