Urban areas routinely expose surrounding lakes, rivers and seas to significant loads of contaminants. This pollution often originates from sewers, surface runoff, failing septic systems and illicit pipe connections. In times of heavy rainfall, even well-maintained sewer networks can overflow, discharging urban wastewater directly into the environment and raising the concentration of harmful chemicals and pathogens in water bodies. In addition to the damage that these pollutants cause to ecosystems, they can also lead to sanitary risks when reaching peri-urban bathing areas. According to EU legislation, national authorities are responsible for monitoring bacteria in these waters and informing the public of local pollution levels. The Water Framework Directive also commits them to maintaining the quality of water bodies.
The LIFE iBATHWATER project aims to demonstrate how better technology and interoperability can reduce pollution levels in water bodies located near urban centres. An open software platform will coordinate tasks involved in operating sewage systems to improve wastewater monitoring, treatment and management in cities including Barcelona and Berlin. Its holistic design will make it possible to combine information from existing infrastructure with online data on water quality, including measurements from water quality monitoring probes deployed by project partners. This comprehensive insight will assist authorities in implementing the Water Framework Directive and feed into algorithms to support decision makers governing bathing waters. The increased transparency and control offered by project activities will reduce the environmental burden and sanitary risks of abrupt pollution events on recreational water bodies, helping to implement the objectives of the Bathing Water Directive. It will notably tackle the environmental impact of wastewater spill-over following heavy rain.