Deltares involved in clearing up Rio bay for the Olympics

Published: 24 November 2014

Deltares is a partner in the efforts to clean up Guanabara Bay on the Brazilian coast near Rio de Janeiro in time for the 2016 Olympics. Some events in the summer games have been planned in the bay, which has a serious problem with waste in the water.

Deltares has started on the development of a forecasting system that will show where the waste is located in the bay, and how fast it is moving in which direction. That allows the eco-boats that clear up the waste to do their work more effectively and efficiently.

Pollution caused by urbanisation and deforestation

With a surface area of more than 400 km 2, Guanabara Bay is Brazil’s second-largest bay. This vast area was once home to a rich and varied ecosystem but factors such as urbanisation and deforestation have led to severe pollution in recent decades. Local people and companies from the surrounding areas dump their waste in rivers, and hardly any is filtered out of the water flowing into the bay.

Guanabara Bay, waar een aantal Olympische activiteiten gaat plaatsvinden, heeft een groot probleem met ronddrijvend afval.

Guanabara Bay,

Appeal to Dutch water sector by Olympic champion

Dorian van Rijsselberghe, the Olympic windsurfing champion in London in 2012, put the problem of waste in the bay onto the agenda earlier this year. He pointed out that the Olympics were impossible here in the current conditions. He called on the Dutch water sector to contribute expertise for a clean-up.

Forecast system operational in early 2015

Frank Kleissen worked on the project on behalf of Deltares: ‘The hydrodynamic model is now being developed. Deltares will be using the Delft-FEWS, Delft3D-FLOW and PART software. The system will go operational in early 2015. That should make it possible to complete the clean-up faster so that the bay will be clean for the big sailing rehearsal already in August 2015.’

Problem manageable but not yet resolved

However, Frank Kleissen believes that more is needed to achieve a structural clean-up of the waters: ‘We can get the problem down to manageable proportions now but that doesn’t mean that it has been resolved. If Rio wants to manage water quality sustainably so that the valuable ecosystem can recover, the root cause will have to be tackled. That means changing the approach to disposing of the waste and sewage.’

The project in the bay in Rio is being supported by the Ministries of Infrastructure and the Environment, and of Economic Affairs.