Presentation of the project

Urbanization completely disturbs the water cycle, through the creation of impervious surfaces which reduce infiltration and massively increase stormwater runoff volumes. With urbanization set to increase, and uncertainty due to climate change impacts, there is a critical and internationally recognized need to increase the permeability of the urban landscape and to restore a more natural water cycle in cities. However, due to the contamination of urban surfaces, runoff water may carry high concentrations of pollutants. Where infiltration is used to mitigate stormwater runoff, this can result in the transfer of pollutants into urban soils and the water table, which poses the question of pollution of groundwater and surface water. Urban soils should be checked regarding their capability to infiltrate water, at the same time as promoting the filtration of pollutants. INFILTRON therefore aims to develop a large ring infiltrometer for evaluating the infiltration & filtration functions of urban soils.

Innovative aspects of the project:
  • the development of tracers specifically for emerging pollutants and bacteria, detectable using non-invasive techniques (MRI – magnetic Resonance Imaging for laboratory experiments and GPR – Ground Penetrating radar for field),
  • the size of the device for addressing the appropriate spatial scales for accounting for preferential flow and mass transfer that often establish in urban soils as the result of their strong heterogeneity,
  • the development of a methodology and a functional “all-in-one” tool combining the experimental device and a numerical model specifically designed to be user-friendly for use by practitioners and engineers.

This tool will allow a quantitative measurement of the infiltration & filtration functions of urban soils, which is of great interest to managers of infiltration systems / bio-retention ponds, but also of polluted sites and soils. To disseminate the results as widely as possible, the consortium will produce an industry-focused guide for the use of the INFILTRON package (with supporting technical reports), build a specific website for online data access, design a commercial strategy for INFILTRON package dissemination and will organize a technical workshop, open to stakeholders, consultant engineers, managers of infiltration systems and polluted sites, and regional and local authorities.

The consortium will also ensure an active publication policy in peer-reviewed journals, including high rank open source scientific publications and participation in major international conferences (e.g. EGU, NOVATECH, AGU, WCSS), along with a specific conference on the topic of preferential flow and mass transfer in urban soils to be hosted by EGU and on the management of stormwater and runoff water in the city to be hosted by NOVATECH. In summary, the consortium will deliver knowledge, design guidance and practical tools to support the market for stormwater eco-technologies for the mitigation of urbanization impacts on the water cycle, soil and groundwater quality. The consortium will benefit from committed partnerships with an internationally well-recognized Australian research team in the field of stormwater infiltration systems and with an internationally well recognized Italian team in the field of infiltration measurements.

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