Trenor country house
In this article we provide all the details of the GUARDIAN official opening event that took place at Riba-roja and Paterna last April 7th. It was a great day after these last years of hard work that will surely remain in everyone’s memory for a long time!

GUARDIAN was officially inaugurated last April 7th. The opening event was carefully programmed by the consortium in order to share with local authorities, stake holders, neighbours and media the successful story of the project implementation reaching to an end. The day started at the beautiful spot of Trenor country house, at La Vallesa de Mandor, where the main milestones of the project could be reviewed and highlighted through the speeches of authorities and the manager of the GUARDIAN consortium. Following, we moved to Cañada Sur settlement (Paterna) to check some pieces of the hydraulic infrastructure to see how the water canyons worked in real time. For sure they did, as some of us couldn’t keep from getting a little wet! Finally, we came back to Trenor’s for a toast to the good work and to the GUARDIAN future.

Reception at Trenor country house

La Vallesa de Mandor is a majestic construction dating back to the 18th century surrounded by orange groves and gardens that once served as accommodation for personalities such as the Spanish king Alfonso XIII. A better setting could not have been found for the inauguration of the successful GUARDIAN project, which started sharply at 11h.

The expectation was high from the very beginning, especially that of the media that were anxiously looking for the faces and first impressions of different members of the consortium (Figure 1).

Ferran Dalmau
Figure 1. Ferran Dalmau (Medi XXI CEO) handling press questions.

The speeches were smoothly introduced by Sandra Pascual, the person in charge of external communications of the Riba-roja City council, who opened the event:

Today we culminate an adventure that began to take shape in March 2018 with great enthusiasm and convinced at that time that it would be a very important project for the environmental future of this land

Sandra gave the floor to Vicente Adobes, the manager and leader of the GUARDIAN workforce who summarized the main milestones of the project. He reviewed the overall idea of the smart use of reclaimed water to fight fires combined with the innovative fuel management approach developed in the project, the green firebreaks,  in wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas with high fire risk:

This is a wonderful area, an ideal natural beauty spot to live in, but at the same time, a place with high risk of wildfires. Fires are more and more frequent and virulent. We have many residential areas literally attached to the forest, what we call the wildland-urban interface

Vicente also highlighted the role and suitability of every partner within the GUARDIAN project and went through the main activities undertaken within the project implementation phase: planning and calculation of hydraulic infrastructure, installation of the water canyons, design and development of the irrigation patterns, fuel management, etc.

Following, it was the turn of UIA Project Officer Tommaso Galli, who, together with Romain Turminel, spent a few days in Riba-roja with the mission of doing a site visit to see the results of the project and catch-up with all key actors. He highlighted two main challenges that GUARDIAN has overcome. The first one being that, in 3 years and 6 months, the consortium has brought the project to fruition overcoming all the complexities from the administrative point of view and those due to the COVID situation. The second one has to do with the size of Riba-roja and Paterna: GUARDIAN has shown that two small municipalities can successfully run complex projects:

The lesson that I’ll bring back to Brussels is that small cities can really make it!

Tommaso also brought our attention to the future, reminding that the project has to receive proper financial and political sustainability, and that results have to be disseminated to help replicating the solution elsewhere. He finally encouraged to keep an eye on future UIA calls; since Riba-roja and Paterna have done a good job once, why not giving them a second chance?

Next, the mayor of Riba-roja, Robert Raga, made an emotional speech focussed on the origin of GUARDIAN. He recalled with pride and happiness that GUARDIAN was born from the conviction (from the very first day in office!) that Riba-roja had to be aligned with the sustainable development goals, particularly with those dealing with climate change. Linking water management with circular economy principles was a priority of his political program and, inspired by a final degree project of environmental sciences developed by Carles Pardo in 2015 at Universitat de València (UV), Robert and his office come up with the right ideas to close the water cycle at Riba-roja. They started to foresee new uses for the Camp de Túria II treatment plant water outlet: why not think of reclaiming water to be used for agricultural purposes, for increasing ecosystem’s quality in water ponds and for fighting fires at the same time? These ideas brainstormed by a bright student have now become a reality.

Riba-roja mayor also shared his memories of the first meeting in Brussels in which all UIA 3d call granted projects were convened: the name of Riba-roja and Paterna was announced together with the names of several world’s greatest cities: Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sevilla, etc. What an honour!

His speech ended with an acknowledgement to all GUARDIAN partners and to the UIA funding agency, with an explicit mention to the current war situation in Ukraine:

Seeing the ignominy of what is happening in Ukraine, I thought of Europe. I thought about how important it is to be more Europe. Without Europe, GUARDIAN would not have been possible

 In his turn, the mayor of Paterna, Juan Antonio Sagredo, added that GUARDIAN has shown the value of public-private collaboration in the management and execution of environmental projects, emphasizing that the benefits of GUARDIAN in La Vallesa have repercussions throughout the metropolitan area. Juan Antonio said proudly that thanks to GUARDIAN:

Our towns are listed at the forefront of hydraulic firefighting infrastructure worldwide

Lastly, the regional secretary of Safety and Emergencies, José María Ángel, directed some words of congratulations and thanks, acknowledging the leadership and passion of both Riba-roja and Paterna mayors. José María recalled the severe wildfire that occurred in the area in 1994, whose consequences developed into one of the seeds of the GUARDIAN project:

We suffered a terrible fire that shook us. That made us all reflect: politicians, neighbourhood associations, citizens

La Cañada Sur site visit

After all the speeches, attendees were moved by bus to Cañada Sur, one of the main locations of GUARDIAN in Paterna, where we were able to see live the operation of a line of water cannons (Figure 2). Some of us couldn’t keep from getting a little wet…luckily enough, the weather was nice and warm!

Water canyons
Figure 2. Water cannons at Cañada Sur (Paterna)

After the water test, partner leaders commented on their main role in the project (Figure 3). Mario Ruiz did so of on behalf of CETAQUA. This company has been in charge of designing the water reclamation plant so that to obtain water for all the different uses: i.e. irrigating the WUI and supplying water to La Vallesa pond. Mario mentioned that the main challenge of their work was to eliminate organic micropollutants (coming from pesticides, pharmaceutical and industrial compounds, etc.) to achieve the required water quality. Javier Anguiano (HIDRAQUA) synthetically described the hydraulic infrastructure, which in summary includes five storage tanks and 6.5 km of pipelines that convey water to the water canyons of Cañada Norte, Cañada Sur, Els Pous and Masia Traver sites. Antonio Molina (Universitat Politécnica de Valencia - UPV) made use of one of UPV’s amazing sensors to explain how his team has been investigating on the water flows and needs in trees to establish the irrigation pattern according to the main environmental parameters (e.g. temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture, etc.). Ferran Dalmau summarized MEDI XXI’s different roles within GUARDIAN project: setting up 40 water canyons and their operational system as a function of fire risk, managing the fuel of 37 forested ha by thinning, pruning and clearing, inserting 2800 new fire-resistant plants to configure the green firebreaks, and training and educating residents and stake holders. Last but not least, Francesc Hernández (Universitat de València) commented on the role of UV which has been to study the economic viability of GUARDIAN accounting for the social and environmental benefits and comparing these to inaction costs.

Figure 3. The GUARDIAN consortium at Cañada Sur site with the UIA project officer.

Final toast to the GUARDIAN project

After the site visit, we came back to Trenor country house where we had the opportunity to chat and network with invited guests and have a look to the information panels displaying GUARDIAN highlights (Figure 4).

Figure 4. The mayors of Riba-roja (left)  and Paterna (right)  attending the press in front of the GUARDIAN information panels. Source: Horta noticias

We could even check new technological advances that Medi XXI is developing for population risk education based on virtual reality (VR) (Figure 5). For sure the use of VR experiences and applications with immersive scenarios where people is challenged to take decisions and see consequences is a very powerful technique that will revolutionize the field of risk awareness and training…but this is something that should be explained in detail in following articles…

Figure 5. VR technology for risk awareness education

Finally, local appetizers and drinks were offered at the end of the event, with which we could all have a toast to the good work and to the project’s future. Long life GUARDIAN!

About this resource

Elsa Pastor
Riba-roja de Túria, Spain Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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