Piroska Szentirmai, a student of environmental engineering at the Faculty of Chemical and Bioengineering of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, wrote her thesis entitled Determining the Irrigation Water Demand of Urban Green Areas. As part of her research, she came to the conclusion that irrigation in Budapest is not planned, but rather ad hoc, and the system currently in place is often not working properly.

The LIFE in Runoff project, by spreading the use of a time series based stormwater reservoir sizing methodology based on water balance calculations, would, in his opinion, allow for the establishment of more efficient reservoirs, thus improving the stormwater management system in Budapest.

In our interview, we asked Piroska Szentirmai about her professional experience, the difficulties and suggestions, and the connection to the LIFE in Runoff programme.

Why did you choose this particular topic, why did you think it was important?

I have been interested in the water cycle, aquatic ecosystems and water conservation since I was a young child, and it was the lectures on these subjects that I enjoyed the most during my university studies. Fortunately for me, the BME Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering there was a proposal for a topic on the study of irrigation of urban green areas, the exploration of the water consumption of irrigation, whether it would be possible to cover this water demand from alternative sources and what possibilities there are to optimise this.

As I started to research the topic in the national and international literature, it became more and more interesting for me, because it was the first time I came across methods that could be used to approximate the irrigation water demand of urban green spaces.

With water shortages likely to become more frequent and more widespread due to climate change, and water prices likely to rise, rethinking and better planning of irrigation systems is, and will become even more so in the near future, essential and inevitable. For this reason, I believe that there is a growing need for research on urban stormwater management, the determination of the actual water demand of green areas and the proper sizing of stormwater reservoirs, and I felt that my thesis and my TDK thesis on the same topic could provide useful material in this regard.

What difficulties did you encounter when writing your essay?

While working on the topic, I was surprised to find that there is no scientific article or research related to the determination of irrigation water demand of urban green areas in the Hungarian literature, so I had difficulties in writing my thesis, because there is no Hungarian equivalent of a parameter in a given method, as it is not yet known in Hungary.

In order to get to know the current irrigation system and to collect data and water consumption data of the investigated sites, FŐKERT Nonprofit Zrt. was one of my colleagues who helped me. However, in many areas it was difficult to determine the exact amount of irrigated green area and from which water meter the irrigation was being carried out. In addition, in the case of water consumption, I also encountered problems where no consumption data were available for a given month, because sometimes the meter was paved over, stolen or it was not possible to read the meter due to construction. Another difficulty was that daily data on water consumption was not available, so I could only obtain it on a monthly basis. These factors have made it difficult to accurately determine the actual water consumption of the green spaces studied.

What made you choose Öröm Street as a research area?

I chose the reservoir in Öröm Street because last summer, the XII. During my internship at the Green Office in the district, I was told that there were plans to create stormwater reservoirs in the district, and this was the site for which the design documentation had already been prepared. This gave me the opportunity to talk to the civil engineers doing the scaling and look at the plans, so I could use the actual planned parameters for the time-series scaling.

Do you plan to continue your research?

I have just started working in the Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering, which gave me the opportunity to continue my research. Currently, I am investigating the applicability of internationally developed empirical relationships for determining the irrigation water requirements of different urban green spaces in Hungary, and which of them could be more effectively adapted to the domestic conditions. The estimate of irrigation water demand could be extended to the whole of Budapest and then to Hungary, which would give an accurate picture of how much of urban water consumption is accounted for by irrigation of urban green spaces. In addition, it would be interesting to see what possibilities there would be from a city management point of view to integrate such a based irrigation system into the remote-controlled system of the water utility.

How is the topic related to the LIFE in Runoff project?

A more accurate determination of the irrigation water demand of urban green areas would allow the optimisation of the amount of water irrigated, thus reducing the need for valuable drinking water. The time series based scaling method used in my research was developed in the framework of the LIFE in Runoff project and allows the construction of a rainwater reservoir of a size that can meet the irrigation water demand of a given area with sufficient efficiency, and can give an accurate picture of the water demand of a given size of green area. This is a potential solution to promote urban climate adaptation in the field of rainfall management, which is one of the main objectives of the LIFE in Runoff project.

Who have you been able to work with and who have helped you in your work?

Fortunately for me, I was given a lot of help to learn more about the irrigation system in Budapest and the different blue-green infrastructure and stormwater management solutions. A big part of this was the fact that my 6 week internship at the XII. at the Green Office in the district, where they were very helpful and kind to me. This gave me the opportunity to visit the Szepesi Street site in the district, where the planned drainage solution was explained, and to visit the VII. district, to the Klauzál square fairgrounds, where I was shown around, saw the proposed rainwater harvesting site and the design drawings. In addition, the XVIII. the gravel parking lot planned in the district and the drainage solution for Kolbányi Géza Street.

One of the staff members of the FŐKERT provided great help in learning about the irrigation system, methods and site characteristics in Budapest. Through this I learned about the type of irrigation and the characteristics of the system at each site.

In the preparation of my thesis and throughout the research, I received a lot of help and guidance from my thesis advisors, who introduced me to the LIFE in Runoff project, of which they are also active participants.

Photos by Piroska Szentirmai

Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering
Environmental Engineer BSc


BSc thesis

Prepared by:
Piroska Szentirmai, Environmental Engineer BSc
Theme leader:
Dr. Adrienne Clement, Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering, Associate Professor
Laura Horváth – Varga, Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering, scientific
Tamás Ács, Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering, research assistant
Bence Decsi, Department of Water Utilities and Environmental Engineering, research assistant
Budapest, 2023