This morning the largest fire-fighting installation in Europe and the second largest in the world was inaugurated, located in urban-forest interface areas of the Parc Natural del Túria in the municipalities of Riba-roja de Túria and Paterna. An initiative led by these two city councils, together with Hidraqua, Medi XXI, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the University of Valencia and Cetaqua. The Parc Natural del Túria (Generalitat Valenciana) has also collaborated in this project.
The GUARDIAN Project was selected in the 3rd UIA Urban Innovative Actions call and obtained funding for 80% of the 5.5 million € involved in its development. In addition to the size of this installation, the differential character is that it uses reclaimed water, purified water subjected to specific treatments for its reuse, in the fight against forest fires, which are increasingly frequent as a result of the climate crisis. Thus, 52 cannons of water, a hydraulic infrastructure that runs through the Natural Park, a network of sensors that monitor the forest in real time, the forestry work carried out and a water regenerating station that has the most advanced technology to convert purified water into suitable for use in a green lung for the province of Valencia; These are some of the elements that make up the GUARDIAN project and thanks to which the protection of an area that covers 2,000 hectares and where 15,000 inhabitants reside will be increased.
Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Interior and Public Administration; from the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition; Innovation and Digital Transformation; and Innovation, Universities, Science and Digital Society; among others, they have accompanied the municipal representatives and the rest of the entities participating in this project, in this presentation act that has also had representatives of the UIA, belonging to the EU. During his speech, Tommaso Galli, GUARDIAN project officer, highlighted the importance of the UIA projects to support municipalities around Europe also to address the effects of climate change.
For his part, Jose María Ángel Batalla, regional secretary for Security and Emergencies, highlighted during his speech “the involvement of the European Union and all the partner entities of the GUARDIAN Project in the protection of forest fires, and specifically of the Natural Park del Túria, the most important forest in the metropolitan area”. Likewise, he highlighted the technical importance of this project and thanks to which Riba-roja de Túria and Paterna, under public-private collaboration, have managed to capture the attention of Europe for the financing of 80% of this initiative.
The mayor of Riba-roja de Túria, Robert Raga, indicated during his speech “we can already say that the province of Valencia has one of the largest fire-fighting infrastructures in the world in an urban-forest interface. However, much work remains to be done and it is key that we continue to invest in this natural enclave, through public-private collaboration, in new initiatives that allow us to continue to face the direct consequences of the climate crisis that has manifested itself so much in recent years in the Spanish southeast".
Juan Antonio Sagredo, Mayor of Paterna, has highlighted that "the GUARDIAN project places us at the forefront of hydraulic fire-fighting infrastructures worldwide, highlighting the importance and efficiency of public-private collaboration in the management and execution of projects that help combat climate change as well as the need to promote sustainable initiatives, and replicable in other municipalities, as a model of preservation and protection of the environment”.
During this presentation ceremony, each of the partner entities has also been able to explain what their work has been within the project. The companies Hidraqua and CETAQUA have been in charge of the design, production and installation of the Water Regeneration Station (ERA), an infrastructure in which an advanced water treatment is developed to eliminate micropollutants and obtain water of Sufficient quality for use on green firewalls. In addition, part of the reclaimed water will be supplied to the La Vallesa reservoir, also located in this Natural Park, to improve the quality of this cataloged wetland. Likewise, Hidraqua has developed the five reclaimed water storage tanks and the 11.5 km of pipes that allow the water to cross the Natural Park, and arrive from the regeneration station to the SIDEINFO towers.
Regarding the installation of the 40 SIDEINFO towers, this work is carried out by the company specialized in environmental services Medi XXI; as well as the silvicultural treatment works that the project also contemplates. These are tasks of clearing, pruning trees, or thinning diseased trees, dominated or that provide excessive density, as well as the elimination of cane fields. In total, more than 37 hectares of a strategic nature have been managed with the aim of preventing an urban fire from spreading to the Natural Park, and preventing a fire in the Turia or its surroundings from affecting populated areas. In addition, the GUARDIAN project teams have planted more than 2,000 units of less combustible autochthonous Mediterranean species (ash, boxwood, rowan, mastic, myrtle or durillo, among others) that will act, together with prescribed irrigation, as authentic green barriers. With this combination of actions, the aim is to prevent the impact of high-intensity fires. For the study prior to carrying out these works, Medi XXI has had the collaboration of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV).
The contribution to the GUARDIAN project by the UPV also focuses on analyzing how the characteristics of the soil and the atmospheric conditions act on the hydric state of the vegetation. Thus, the University has installed soil, atmospheric and tree sensors in selected areas of La Vallesa to quantify water relations and study the effect of irrigation using the SIDEINFO towers. With these data, the hydrological knowledge of the mountain has been deepened and optimal irrigation patterns have been determined to be applied by the permanently installed towers.
Finally, the University of Valencia is in charge of analyzing the economic impact of the project.