Rising sea levels and an increasing number of megacities could become a difficult combination if water infrastructure isn’t given the attention it deserves. Thankfully, there are solutions to some of the world’s water challenges.
Sea levels are projected to rise by as much as 122 centimeters (48 inches) by 2100. Couple this with growing urban populations, especially in coastal areas, and millions of people are under threat from flooding. In fact, the number of people affected by rising water is expected to triple in less than 15 years.
The cost of flooding in the world’s largest coastal cities is already huge, and the figure for 2017 is expected to be significantly higher due to the damage caused by several extreme weather events, including Hurricane Harvey. By 2050, the total cost of flooding in coastal cities is projected to rise to a staggering USD 1 trillion a year. Miami, New York, Shanghai, Bangkok and Mumbai are just a few of the cities at high risk of flooding if water management isn’t prioritized.
Some local governments have grasped the urgency of the situation and are taking measures to prevent flooding, for example by building dikes, storm surge barriers, flood barrages, sluices and dams. Venice, the city of canals, has made significant investments to ensure that rising tides do not put it under water for good. Venice joined forces with neighboring cities to undergo an ambitious storm surge solution, called the mose project. It provides flood protection through the installation of 78 mobile flood barriers at various inlets. These surge barriers activate if the tide gets too high, and they remain tucked away in special housings at the bottom of the lagoon when not in use. Trelleborg was involved in the Venice project from the beginning, working with the project design team early on and providing custom-made sealing solutions and multiple fender systems.
“Trelleborg has long experience with different types of water management projects around the world,” says Ruud Bokhout, Business Development and Marketing
Director within Trelleborg Offshore & Construction. “Our solutions can be found in storm surge barriers and other infrastructure around the world.”
Examples of Trelleborg’s involvement in flood prevention globally include the St. Petersburg storm flood barrier, a complex water infrastructure project consisting of a 25-kilometer dam, two navigation channels and the longest undersea road tunnel in Russia. Trelleborg was engaged in designing a solution to seal the tunnel’s 15 sections. At 40 meters wide and seven meters high, the Trelleborg Omega seals will provide resistance for 100 years with no maintenance required. In Los Angeles, robust Omega seals are also a part of flood prevention actions in the city’s efforts to minimize the possibility of water entering its congested road system, providing seals to the state of California’s Department of Transportation.
Threatened by rising river levels, countries such as South Korea and the Netherlands have turned to Trelleborg solutions such as self-activating seals and compression seals for their storm surge barriers and other infrastructure.
Bokhout is confident that flood damage can be prevented through such solutions, but he urges people not to wait. “These projects take time,” he says. “Complex structures need to be built, and the technology is very advanced. It is important that Trelleborg is involved at an early stage to ensure the engineering of a suitable and fully reliable solution.”
Trelleborg offers customized sealing solutions for water management projects worldwide. These are some of the products commonly used:
- Self-activating seals/lip seals are activated by water pressure. They are suitable in radial, horizontal or vertical sluice gates.
- Compression/D profile seals enable the sealing of expansion joints and are made of rubber that is highly resistant to deterioration from exposure to weather, sunlight, oils and impact.
- Inflatable gaskets seal an opening or gap by inflation and pressurization with air or water.
- Omega seals withstand high water pressure in combination with large movements in all directions.
- Gina seals provide a seal between two concrete elements, for example in an underwater tunnel or for sealing a temporary bulkhead at the end of a tunnel.
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