Travertine pavements could cut flooding by 50% - study
Changing the material used in pavements could reduce flooding by 50 per cent and purify stormwater at the same time, according to researchers from Xi'an Jiaotong- Liverpool University (XJTLU).
In initial experiments, travertine – a form of limestone commonly used for kitchen benchtops and tiling in homes – showed significant potential to reduce stormwater runoff by assisting it to infiltrate to the ground, and in the process remove a number of heavy metal pollutants from the water.
Dr Xiaonan Tang from the Department of Civil Engineering at XJTLU said travertine could offer a viable and environmentally friendly alternative pavement option to address the global issue of urban flooding.
“Urban flooding is a significant challenge in many parts of the world and this is likely to increase as we feel the effects of climate change,” he said.
“Traditional pavement materials like concrete are not very absorbent so in heavy rainfall, they create a large amount of runoff. In urban areas, this can cause huge problems as the runoff water has nowhere to go – the rivers it enters into can only hold a certain capacity, creating flooding.
“What we tried to achieve with this study is to find an alternative pavement solution that could help us build smarter cities, capable of managing stormwater through the materials they are constructed with.
“Our research revealed the benefits of travertine are twofold – it not only reduces flooding but it also reduces the amount of heavy metals within flood waters.”
The lead author on the paper, joint XJTLU and University of Liverpool PhD student Hamidreza Rahimi, said initial results indicate travertine pavement can decrease more than 90 percent of copper, lead and zinc in stormwater while also reducing stormwater runoff by up to 50 percent.
Rahimi said the secret to travertine’s success lies in its porous properties and its affordability and accessibility.
“Travertine is a porous material with kind of sponge texture – it has many tiny holes in it – and those holes actually decrease its economic value in the current market,” he said.
“If you buy a truckload of travertine – as I did for this research project – the seller will ask you why you need it. In its holey form, it’s considered waste material as it needs to be smooth and hole-free when used in domestic building projects.
“The material is widely available, especially in volcano areas, and from my understanding, only 40 per cent of travertine is considered usable for its current purpose in modern homes – the other 60 per cent is being wasted. We could make use of this waste product to improve the safety and environment of our cities.”
While the researchers are quick to point out that water purified through travertine is not suitable for drinking, Rahimi said it could serve a number of other important purposes.
“When the dirt on the pavement of city streets combines with rain, it creates heavily polluted water than cannot be repurposed or reused without complex and expensive treatment,” he said.
“The World Health Organisation dictates that water needs to meet certain criteria before it is used for various purposes. Travertine helps clean water, and while you couldn’t drink it, you could, for example, use the water for irrigation in the agricultural industry.
“This has the potential to create huge savings – countries all over the world spend a large amount of money improving water quality for agricultural use. Imagine if we could improve water quality just by using a different material in our city pavement?”
Rahimi believes the study, which was published in the International Journal of Applied Sciences this year, is the first of its kind.
He said the use of travertine for urban pavements needs to be explored further to better understand the best ways to design and install the material to maximise its potential to address flooding and pollution.
Rahimi is being supervised by Dr Tang, who has worked in the field of flood hydraulics and water management for more than 15 years. The study is one of a number of projects Dr Tang has worked on at XJTLU. In recent years, he has won a number of grants, including prestigious National Natural Science Foundation of China general grant, to investigate how water channels can reduce flooding in regional areas and what role vegetation plays in reducing pollution in urban rivers and wetlands.
- Ofwat makes counter-claims in Thames Water's interim price rise case Water regulator Ofwat has outlined the process for challenging Thames Water's request for an interim increase in... Read More >
- EA chairman resigns after heavy criticism Environment Agency (EA) chairman Philip Dilley has stepped down from his post, after being heavily criticised for being on... Read More >
- Aqualogic to distribute Trimble Unity smart water platform UK-based water specialist Aqualogic has become the distributor for the Trimble Unity smart water software platform for... Read More >
- Comment: Can innovation help the taps continue to run in the future? There is little doubt that innovative thinking is required if the industry to meet the resource challenges of the future,... Read More >
- New dimensions: How BIM drove Scottish Water's Tullich WTW project With ESD making extensive use of BIM including 4D visualisation tools, Scottish Water has successfully completed a £29... Read More >
- Digital digging: OS and NWG's underground mapping system Ordnance Survey helped pioneer an idea for a new digital mapping system for underground utilities at Northumbrian Water's... Read More >
- Customers, Innovation, Sprinting and The Gruffalo A design sprint on customer service at WWT's recent Water Industry Technology Innovation Conference highlighted how the... Read More >
- Opinion: Improving Resilience in AMP7 Getting the right data to measure asset health and support resilience will be crucial for water companies in meeting their... Read More >