From its origins, Barcelona has had sewer systems which have evolved along with the city.The first constructions, discovered by Josep Antoni Brusi, go back to Roman times.But the current sewer system is, for the main part, the fruit of the engineering work designed by the illustrious road, canal and port engineers Pere García Faria and later, Albert Vilalta I González.
* The Plan of García Faria
The García Faria Plan (1886) marks a before and after in the history of the Barcelona sewer network, and therefore in the quality of life of its inhabitants.In the introduction, Pere García Faria recognizes that his refurbishment proposal is not attractive, but reminds us that its implementation need not take long to produce excellent results.The project was not fully carried through, but it was an extremely important precedent.
The plan originated in 1884, when the mayor of Barcelona (Joan Coll I Pujol) created a technical commission to refurbish the sewer system.García Faria himself set out in 1885 the basis of his project, but they were not approved until December, 1886.While the plan was extensive and technically complex, some basic points were included for the later development of the sewage system network:
* General Plan System Plan 1954
In 1952 the directives were set down which, two years later, allowed the General Plan of Purification and Sewage Systems to be carried out in Barcelona. This plan shows the most outstanding deficiencies in the Barcelona subsoil, like for example the lack of capacity to absorb all of the water flow or the concentration of sea outlets in only three points (Sants emissary, Horta and Bogatell inundations). This also manifests itself in the problem of the low gradients, which provoke abundant sedimentations in the drains in the lower part of the city.
* The Vilalta Plan (1968)
Barcelona had suffered a strong urban development, absorbing, with its wide area of influence, a large wave of immigrants. The uncontrolled urban development of these years, an urbanization which consisted in systematically requalifying lands which in the General Plan were classified as public, thus making them buildable, brought intense densifying, both for the outer fringe and the Eixample.
On the other hand, in those years a change of attitude towards the sea came about. If the city had previously turned its back on him, and it was understood that raw sewage in the sea was a source of illnesses, the citizens in the sixties started to become interested in the seashore, enjoying it, as far as possible, with great enthusiasm.
The growth of the city, with the consequent increase in impermeable land surface, made many of the collectors obsolete, and they needed to be refurbished in order to be able to absorb the new water flow in times of flooding. Also, the increasing economic importance of zones subject to flooding centre interest on the problem of avoiding this flooding.
The Sewage System Plan directed by the road engineer Albert Vilalta I González between 1967 and 1969, and written up by the Sewage System Service of Barcelona City Council, attempted to respond to these problems.
One of the Plan's objectives was the recycling of these waters with the aim of re-using them for irrigation and industrial uses, thus remedying the water deficit of Barcelona and its surrounding area. Another, no less important, objective was to restore some of the basins to the zones of natural drainage, so as to reduce as far as possible the load on the Bogatell outlet. The idea was to cut the direct outlets of wastewater to the beaches and treat it in treatment plants, with aim of guaranteeing the quality of the seawater for its recreational use by the citizens.
Among the most outstanding results of this Plan are the Besòs and Bogatell purification plants, the latter of these now demolished.
The Vilalta Plan was not fully carried out because of lack of sufficient investment, but its basic proposals were transferred in their entirety into the plans that were finally executed.
The Vilalta Plan signifies the first serious planning and drainage attempt with regard to purifying the city since the appearance of the García Faria Project.
* The Special Sewage System Plan of Barcelona (1988)
The evolution of the city of Barcelona demanded a change in the existing sewage system plans. Olympic Barcelona, the plans for purification, and definitively, the consolidation of urbanization, brought about the Special Sewage System Plan of Barcelona (PECB). The plan included an analysis of the overall functioning of the network in order to identify the areas subject to flooding and analyse their causes.In the study, were also included the municipalities of the metropolitan area, like for example L'Hospitalet, Esplugues and part of Sant Adrià de Besòs.
One of the most notable innovations of this Special Plan is the use of computer methods. This allowed the functioning of the sewage system network to be simulated according to rain intensity and thus identify the problem points.
Another key element of this plan is that, for the first time, the possibility, now made reality, was studied of installing a control system in real time on the sewage system network, using a network of rainwater meters and level meters. The necessity to increase the number of collectors and purify the water to the maximum in cases of severe flooding has also been established.
* The Special Sewage System Plan of Barcelona (1997)
The Special Sewage System Plan of Barcelona PECLAB '97 is the document which plans the development of the sewer system in the hydrological environment of the city, in order to fulfill the objectives assigned to the sewage system (collect and transport wastewater to the purification stations, avoid flooding caused by rainwater and reduce the environmental impact of sewage discharge in times of rain to the receiving medium).
The extension and modification of the network according to this setting up has meant the carrying out of works valued at more than 140 million euros since 1997, including the setting up of retention and anti-contamination tanks (Escola Industrial, Zona Universitària, Bori I Fontestà, Doctors Dolsa, Parc Central de Nou Barris, Joan Miró and Taulat), with a total volume of 440,000 m³ of capacity and numerous collectors, among which those of the streets Enamorats-Aragó stand out.This plan will continue in operation during the coming years, and it is forecast that 45 million euros will be spent in the period 2004-2007.
The carrying through of the different phases of the work, from its planning to its execution, brings with it the use of advanced support tools, without which the PECLAB would not be a document of modern quality. Among these support tools, the most outstanding are the modelling system (which allows us to know the behaviour of water within the sewage system network), the territorial information system (which allows us to know the configuration of the network) and the tele-control system (which allows the system to be operated).
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