5. Impacts and responses

General comments on Chapter 5

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5.     Impacts and Responses

Water managers in Europe, and beyond, are faced by a catalogue of challenges of hitherto unseen proportions. These challenges include a the move from a traditional sectorial approach towards a more holistic consideration of water within the broader concept of ecosystem services, combined with the increasing uncertainty of the future direction and magnitude of the drivers and pressures, for example climate or land use changes. The increasing complexity of water management requires a more integrated approach and a comprehensive policy response to ensure that Europe’s finite water resources can continue to meet the competing demands from the existing and emerging stakeholders as well as increasing the resilience of socio-economic and ecosystems against negative impacts from extreme events such as floods and droughts. For example - the fundamental differences in both spatial and temporal nature of water scarcity & droughts compared to flooding requires distinct yet integrated policy responses.

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5.1.    Water scarcity & droughts (WS&D)

5.1.1.      Impacts

Impacts of water scarcity and drought can be classified as either direct or indirect. Reduced crop and forest productivity, increased fire hazard, reduced water levels, increased livestock and wildlife mortality rates, and damage to wildlife and fish habitat are a few examples of direct impacts from drought and water scarcity (Wilhite, Svoboda, and Hayes 2007). Economic losses and social disruption are examples of indirect impacts. Another classification may also be the division between economic, environmental and social impacts.

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Besides agriculture, electricity production is vulnerable to climate change effects on river low flows and water temperature for their cooling water (EEA 2008; Förster and Lilliestam 2010). In Europe, 78% of the total electricity production is by thermoelectric power plants (van Vliet et al. 2012). Despite of the uncertainties in the modelling framework, the study of van Vliet et al. (2012) suggest that by 2040 the probability of capacity reductions of more than 50% increases by a factor 1.4, reductions over 90% by a factor 2.8. Short-term estimates (daily scale) are proposed as required to address the impacts of water extractions during low flows and water temperature changes on aquatic ecosystems and the economic water user (van Vliet et al. 2012).

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Economic Impacts

Economic impacts relate to different economic sectors such as agriculture, industry, energy, navigation, tourism and include:

  1. Losses in production (crop & livestock production, manufactured goods, energy production etc.) and respective losses in the income generated by the various economic activities (e.g. tourism);
  2. Increase in prices of food, energy and other products (as a result of the reduction in supply). Even the need to import goods may arise or to change the transportation method due to low water levels in rivers;
  3. Increased water prices due to compensating measures;
  4. Cost of drought and flood mitigation measures (including water transfers, imports and other short term development options).

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Box 5.1 Examples of experienced Economic Impacts of WS&D in EU Member States


In Slovenia the direct economic cost of the 2003 drought (mainly loss of agricultural production and aid to farmers) reached 100 Mio€ (Sušnik and Kurnik 2005). ‘Damages due to drought in years 2000 – 2006 summed up to 247 M€; 86 M€ were allocated in national budget and spent for recovery measures; 3 M€ were allocated for preparedness measures. This ratio is not acceptable from public finances’ point of view’. (Gregorič 2009).

In Romania the drought of 2003 affected mainly agricultural production (i.e. wheat: 2500t/ha and rice: 0.5t/ha comparing to 7000t/ha and 0.5t/ha respectively of a normal year) (Anon. 2009)

In Portugal, during the summer of 2005, large amounts of crops were destroyed because of drought (60% loss of wheat and 80% loss of maize productions) (Isendahl and Schmidt 2006). The costs were over 500 Mio€.

The drought of spring 2011 had various impacts on farmers in different regions of the United Kingdom. Field vegetables were reported to be affected in Yorkshire (later harvesting period, lower quality), yields of grazed and harvested grass for livestock production were reduced in parts of the south east, midlands and east of England, horticultural and cereal crops were also affected in some parts of southern and eastern England and voluntary restrictions on spray irrigators were implemented in the Fens.


During nine summer periods between 1979 and 2007 the German government had to reduce production of nuclear power due to high temperatures of water and/or low water flow rates (Müller, Greis, and Rothstein 2007). The reduction of power output of the Unterweser nuclear power plant was reported at 90% between June and September 2003, while the Isar nuclear power plant cut production by 60% for 14 days due to excessively high temperatures and low stream flow rates in the river Isar in 2006 (Förster and Lilliestam 2010).

The drought of 2002-2003 affected most of Norway, Sweden and Finland with a considerable decrease in hydropower production and a consequent increase in the price of electricity (Kuusisto 2004).

Due to 2003 drought and heat wave France faced a 15 % reduction in its nuclear power generation capacity for five weeks, and a 20 % reduction in its hydroelectric production (Hightower and Pierce 2008 in Rübbelke, Vögele, and Centre for European Policy Studies 2011). During the 2009 summer heat wave, due to cooling water shortages the nuclear power generation industry in France, the biggest European electricity exporter, faced a shortage of about 8 GW resulting in import of electricity from Great Britain (Pagnamenta, 2009 in Rübbelke, Vögele, and Centre for European Policy Studies, 2011).

In Portugal, during the summer of 2005, hydropower production was reported to be 54% lower than the average, and 37% lower than in 2004. The costs of the 2004 and 2005 droughts on public water supply, industry and energy and agriculture were over 300 Mio€. (EC 2007a)


In the Netherlands, during dry periods, low river discharges cause restrictions in the inland navigation sector leading to an important increase of cost. According to the Netherlands national drought study the long-term average annual cost due to low water levels in the navigation sector is estimated at 70 Mio€, while the total cost can increase up to 800 Mio€ in a year with extremely low discharge conditions.

In May 2011, river Rhine and river Meuse discharge was decreased by 58% and 68% respectively in comparison with the long term monthly average (van Loon 2011). As a result, the German Federal Hydrological Agency reported that ships on these rivers were forced to navigate at 20-50% of their capacity (Vidal 2011).

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Environmental impacts

Environmental impacts include:

  1. Decrease of available water resources (jeopardized minimum vital flow);
  2. Degradation of water quality (eutrophication, seawater intrusion etc.);
  3. Loss of wetlands;
  4. Loss of biodiversity and degradation of landscape quality;
  5. Soil erosion and Desertification;
  6. Increased risk of forest and range fires;
  7. Changes in river morphology (terraces, gullies);
  8. Ground subsidence.

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Box 5.2 Examples of experienced environmental impacts of WS&D in EU Member States

Groundwater overexploitation and saltwater intrusion

For over the last 40 years groundwater overexploitation in the southern part of Spain has an enormous ecologic impact on the area (Ibáñez and Carola 2010), related to significant lowering of groundwater tables, drying out of springs, degradation of wells and boreholes and saltwater intrusion. In the Ribeiras do Algarve River Basin in Portugal increased water demand for tourism and agriculture during the last decades has caused serious pressure on the area’s environment, including aquifers’ over-abstraction, salinization and water resources’ degradation.

The problem of salt water intrusion due to overexploitation is very common in several coastal aquifers of Italy (Antonellini et al. 2008). In coastal areas in Sardinia, Catanian Plain, Tiber Delta, Versilia and Po Plain freshwater resources are becoming scarcer due to drought, over-exploitation and salinization.

In the Maltese Island because of high water demand resulting in over-abstraction, main groundwater bodies face the risk of failing to achieve the environmental objectives of the WFD (MEPA and MRA 2010).

Loss of biodiversity

According to a research conducted from June 2003 to March 2008 in the Mondego estuary in Portugal, drought conditions have a significant impact on fish communities causing disturbances in their behaviour and functions (Baptista et al. 2010). More specifically, during drought periods due to increased salinity inside the estuary and low freshwater flows the estuarine brackish habitats moved to more upstream areas, while in downstream areas new marine adventitious species were found. Moreover, freshwater species no longer existed inside the Montego estuary during drought, and lower densities were observed for most of the species.

In Romania, severe drought events (i.e. in 2007 and 2009) are reported  to negatively affect forest areas causing changes in the area of several tree species and the boundaries of vegetation zones (moving North and West of the silvo-steppe), encouraging also the appearance of certain Saharian species in the South area of Romania (Lupu, Ionescu, and Borza 2010). Hills and plains covered with forests in areas of South and East Romania, such as Dolj, Olt, Galati, Braila, Ialomita, are proved to be very vulnerable to drought. This vulnerability not only affects the environmental balance but also has a negative socio-economic impact on the population.

In the Czech Republic during the dry years 2003-2004 an increased defoliation of tree species was noticed, especially dieback of unoriginal spruce forests and Pinus nigra. Forests weakened by drought were more vulnerable and consequently attacked by Armillaria ostoyae and bark-beetles (Czech Republic National SD Reports 2008).

In Portugal the 2004-2005 drought resulted in water level fall in many reservoirs (two major reservoirs, Funcho and Arade, completely dried out), reduced rives flows with a parallel degradation in their quality consequently affecting migrating species (e.g. lamprey in Minho river), water table decline in aquifers, salt water intrusion in transboundary waters bodies (e.g. Tagus Estuary), forest fires and removal of 220 tons of fish (Ministério do Ambiente, do Ordenamento do Território e do Desenvolvimento Regional (MAOTDR) 2007).

Related hazards

In Lithuania, during the 2002 summer drought, 123 forest and peat bog fires burst out in July and 374 in August (Sakalauskiene and Ignatavicius 2003).

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Social Impacts

Social impacts include:

  1. Water shortage & interruptions (frequency, duration, extend) due to deficiency in public water supply;
  2. Population affected from water restrictions (levels and duration);
  3. Public safety and Health;
  4. Rising conflicts between water users;
  5. Reduced quality of life;
  6. Inequities in the distribution of impacts.

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Box 5.3 Examples of experienced social impacts of WS&D in EU Member States

Public water supply

In Portugal during the 2004-2006 drought, the cost for public water supply was over 20 Mio€, while 22,850 tankers were used in support of urban water supply in 66 municipalities with over 100,000 inhabitants. The cost of the inconvenience to the inhabitants affected was considered to be significantly higher than the direct costs reported (Ministério do Ambiente, do Ordenamento do Território e do Desenvolvimento Regional (MAOTDR) 2007)

The 2008 extreme drought event left Spain’s reservoirs half empty. In particular, some reservoirs in Catalonia supplying almost 6 million inhabitants reached 20% of their capacity resulting in restriction in domestic water uses, such as swimming pools and gardening, as well as public water uses, i.e. fountains (Collins 2009).

During the 2011 drought restrictions on water use have been imposed in 78 French administrative departments, which lasted for an exceptionally long period of 18 weeks (1/3rd of a year) (Based on Direction de l’eau et de la biodiversité 2011 and communication through Eionet)

In Greece, serious water shortage problems, particularly interruptions, affecting water consumers occur during irrigation season, when about 87% of total freshwater abstraction is used for agriculture (Isendahl and Schmidt 2006).

Transfers and changes in flow regime

The Tagus-Segura water transfer in Spain raised conflicts between the autonomous communities of Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia and also created tensions between Spain and Portugal concerning the flow regime (Isendahl and Schmidt 2006).

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5.1.2.      Responses

The communication from the European Commission ‘Addressing the challenges of water scarcity and drought in the European Union’ (EC 2007b) is the primary policy document guiding effort in the EU to combat water scarcity and drought. The communication defines overarching policy options of which several are related to water economics and resource efficiency (see also section 2.2). Resource efficiency is seen as an important measure to reduce vulnerability, and is dealt with in detail in EEA (2012a). Other policy options deal with water allocation, drought risk management and improved knowledge and data collection.

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The WFD is not directly designed to address quantitative water issues, although its goal includes mitigation of drought effects and its environmental objectives include finding a balance between abstraction and recharge of groundwater. The River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) can include more detailed programmes of measures for issues dealing with particular aspects of water management such as water scarcity and droughts. Some countries, especially those who face water scarcity and drought more frequently, have already implemented drought management plans (DMPs) at river basin scale (see, for example, box 5.4).

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Box 5.4 Drought Management Plans in Spanish River Basins

The Spanish drought management plans are powerful tools coordinated by River Basin Authorities that prioritise uses and protect water ecosystems under stressed situations through agreed bases among stakeholders. They establish drought phases, describe appropriate measures to be applied at each phase taking into consideration homogenized national drought indicators, mitigate their negative effects and foster a comprehensive follow-up of drought episodes and evolution. As their main achievement, they have avoided applying restrictions in urban areas throughout the recent drought periods.

In the implementation of Spanish Drought Management Plans a wide variety of indicators are used in order to warn for a period of impending drought. These include monitoring reservoir levels, using classical drought indices and assessing uncharacteristic thickness of snow pack during winter. The threat level is then evaluated and defined by 3 consecutive scenarios, each of which require different actions to be undertaken:

  1. Pre-alert scenario: The initial stages of drought have been detected but measures are restricted to low cost, voluntary actions such as information dissemination. This scenario is recognised when there is a 10% probability that full water demand will not be met.
  2. Alert scenario: Drought is now occurring and actions include non-structural measures of low to medium cost (i.e. restrictions on recreational water use). This scenario is realised when there is a 30% probability that water deficits will occur.
  3. Emergency scenario: Impacts of the drought are now visible and water supply is in danger. Infrastructure changes would be applied and urban supply may have to be sourced through different means. The probability of not fulfilling water demand must exceed 50% for this scenario to take place.

Source: Garrote et al. 2006

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Clearly, responses and adaptation measures differ, depending on the issues and priorities of each region and are designed to either increase supply (supply–side strategies) or reduce demand (demand–side adaptation strategies). The effectiveness of the response measures is difficult to assess, as it relates to the inherent complexity of water scarcity phenomenon, which has its roots both on natural and anthropogenic drivers, which in turn result in pressures, adversely changing the state, and causing multiple impacts on the environment, economy and society.

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Demand–side adaptation strategies

In some regions improving efficiency is the main priority. Improvements in infrastructure and practices especially in the agricultural sector are a key area. Agricultural demands may also be decreased through the promotion of better crops and cultivars with lower water requirements (EEA 2012b). Another – complementary - strategy is the development of awareness and education campaigns to promote more efficient agricultural practices in response to decreased availability of water (e.g. precision agriculture or deficit irrigation). Subsidies through economic policy instruments could facilitate the conversion to better practices and/or the modernisation of the existing infrastructure (e.g. reducing leakage).

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In many situations subsidies can lead to inefficient use of water or can even create false incentives to increase water use. Removing environmentally harmful subsidies, notably in the agricultural sector but also in other sectors of the economy, can help to reduce water use and will contribute to efficiency gains.

An important, but potentially controversial, area of demand-side adaptation is water pricing. Common measures include charges for water usage, charges for pollution, environmental taxes and fines. The idea behind water pricing strategies is to make water use as efficient as possible and to ensure water quality. One of the main prerequisites for putting appropriate water pricing mechanisms in place is the availability of metering systems, particularly apparent in regions with greater water stress, and registration of illegal abstractions. Efficient metering will allow accurate water pricing based on volume usage and may be useful for establishing a sector-by-sector approach to demand-side adaptation (EEA 2012b).

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Many demand-side strategies have the potential to create conflicts between competing demands, by economic sector, geographical region, etc. However, in the face of decreased water availability navigating such potential conflicts is a necessary task. This means that society needs to become aware of the threats to water resources and also of the current state of water usage at the local level. Cooperation will be a primary goal and will require appropriate institutional frameworks in order to guarantee that water users “play by the rules” – this does not only require enforcement; public participation and awareness are even greater priorities in order to ensure that the threats to water resources are understood and appreciated.

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Box 5.5 Adaptation to water scarcity and drought in the agricultural sector

In many European countries and particularly in the south, agricultural water use represents the highest sectoral abstraction of water. The impacts of water scarcity and drought on this sector are felt not only at farm and regional level but, in the case of widespread or longer term droughts, can have international impacts on commodity prices and food security. It is therefore a priority to reduce the impacts of water scarcity and drought episodes on agriculture now and to prepare for potential increases in the frequency and intensity of these events. This is already occurring to some extent in Member States and important advances will have to be made in the next few years. Policies generally concentrate on research and development, education, introduction of more suited crops, efficiency improvements.

Agricultural adaptation options can be divided into autonomous adaptations (such as changes in varieties, sowing dates and fertilizer and pesticide use) and planned adaptations, referring to major structural changes such as land allocation, farming system and the development of new crop varieties (Bindi and Olesen 2010; Moriondo, Giannakopoulos, and Bindi 2010). The most appropriate adaptation strategy is likely to be a combination of these and will depend on the impact to be experienced as well as the particular vulnerability of the system being considered. It is important to take into account the local conditions, including farm intensity, size and type, which are factors that have been found to play an important role in determining vulnerability to climate change in the agricultural sector (Reidsma et al. 2010).

Although relatively simple and non-cost adaptation options may be easily implemented to tackle the expected change, others will have to be evaluated for cost and feasibility and impacts; in some cases, certain cultivations or agricultural activities may become unviable.

Source: Reidsma et al. 2010; Falloon and Betts 2010; Moriondo, Giannakopoulos, and Bindi 2010; Bindi and Olesen 2010

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Supply-side adaptation strategies

Policies for dealing with and adapting to water scarcity and drought should primarily concentrate on efficiency improvements and reducing demand as described in the previous section. However, in some circumstances, it may be necessary to balance demand side policies with the exploration of supply side measures. This is particularly true in arid regions and in those areas where water scarcity and drought are already causing considerable adverse impacts on certain sectors or on the population in general.

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In these cases, different options must be evaluated for their potential environmental, economic and social impacts. In some areas, desalination plants have been built or are being planned. Particularly in coastal communities where water resources are often limited and groundwater is being affected by salt water intrusion and sea-level rise, this can offer a viable source of freshwater. Drawbacks include the cost of the technology, running costs, high energy consumption and the generation of brine with resulting environmental problems. In southern European countries, but also in some large urban centres such as London, desalination plants have been included in plans to adapt to growing water demand and reduced supply of water resources. (to be further expanded with examples)

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Other sources of water include considering alternative sources such as municipal wastewater, grey water and rainwater. This often requires investments in infrastructure and information and campaigns to overcome public stigma and in some cases alignment of regulations. The treatment of municipal wastewater for reuse is growing in importance in different European settings. Technology can effectively ensure that all pollutants and pathogens are removed and that its use is safe. (examples; parks in Mediterranean).

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5.2.    Flood risk management

5.2.1.      Impacts

Worldwide databases for natural disasters in general like EM-DAT (2012) or NatCatService (2012) or more specific for floods, e.g. Dartmouth Flood Observatory (2012) are nowadays the main data sources available for European wide studies. Details on damages have been compiled in the EM-DAT database, which contains floods fulfilling at least one of the following criteria:

•           ten or more people reported killed;

•           one hundred or more people reported affected;

•           declaration of a state of emergency;

•           call for international assistance.

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The thresholds used to include an event in the database makes then less accurate for smaller events, still having a significant impact. In the reporting of the preliminary flood risk assessment for the European directive on the assessment and management of flood risks (EC 2007c), EU member states gave an overview of significant past floods. In addition, a European flood impact database can bring together publicly available inventories of flood events. Therefore, the EEA collected metadata of existing national and regional hazard and impact databases from all over Europe exploring possibilities for a common European data entrance.

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Several severe flooding events have occurred in Europe over recent decades, causing loss of life, displacement of people and heavy economic losses (EEA 2011a). Since 1980 to 2011, more than 325 major river floods have been reported for all EEA member countries and co-operating countries, of which more than 200 have been reported since 2000. The rise in the reported number of flood events over recent decades results mainly from better reporting and from land-use changes. According to EM-DAT (2012), floods (including flash floods) have resulted in more than 2,500 fatalities and affected more than 5.5 million people in the period from 1980 to 2011. Direct economic losses over this same period amounted to more than EUR 90 billion (based on 2009 values).

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ClimateCost - a European project - made an assessment of future changes in the cost of floods in Europe. To achieve this, changes in the frequency of floods were combined with information on exposed assets, depth-damage relations and population density to estimate economic damages as well as the number of people living in flood risk areas. Under current conditions, the Expected Annual Damage (EAD) was estimated to be approximately €5.5 billion for the EU27.

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:08:21

    what do you mean by changes in the frequency of floods here: river flow or events with damage?

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:08:58

    damage = loss? make sure that you are consistent throughout the report

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On average, higher flood damages were projected for all countries within the EU (Figure 5.1). Taking into account both climate and socio-economic changes under the A1B scenario (more details about scenarios in (EEA (report under preparation) 2012b, section 5.2), the EAD was projected to increase to € 20 billion by the 2020s, to over €45 billion by the 2050s, and almost €100 billion by the 2080s for the ensemble mean results. A significant part of this rise will be due to socio-economic change. Nevertheless, the isolated effect of climate change alone amounted to almost € 10 billion by the 2020s, almost €20 billion by the 2050s, and €50 billion by the 2080s. More about ClimateCost can be found in (EEA (report under preparation) 2012b, section 5.7.1) as well as other major flood impact research projects like PESETA and the ESPON Climate project (chapter under construction)

Figure 5.1 Relative change in expected annual flood damage (EAD)

Source: ClimateCost / reported in Flörke et al. (2011)
Note: Relative change in expected annual flood damage (EAD) due to climate change between future time slice and baseline period. a) 2000s (1981-2010); b) 2020s (2011-2040); c) 2050s (2041-2070); d) 2080s (2071-2100). Current 1 % annual flood probability level assumed as protection level in all time periods (i.e., no adaptation to future changes in flood risk).

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 Box 5.6 Impact of flooding on human health, ecology, cultural heritage and economic activity

The Floods Directive (EC 2007c, Art. 1) states its purpose as “to establish a framework for the assessment and management of flood risks, aiming at the reduction of the adverse consequences for human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity associated with floods in the Community”. In the Floodresiliencity different techniques of mapping and combining the different categories of negative consequences are tried for the Dijle catchment (Belgium) at the city of Leuven and upstream.

The most important economic receptors were material damages to houses, building and industries, infrastructure and cars together with agricultural damages. Social and health impacts were evaluated by a proxy using number of affected people together with a score based on their exposure, susceptibility and adaptation capacities. Cultural heritage was evaluated counting the architectural relics and entities in the medieval city, the monuments and especially world cultural heritage by UNESCO. The ecological impacts were mainly upstream of the city and were based on a combination of vulnerability and biological values (see figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2 Ecological impacts of flooding in the Dijle catchment upstream of Leuven

Source: VMM 2011 and CIS WG Floods Workshop on Floods and Economics, Ghent, 25-16/10/2010

A cost-benefit analysis and multi-criteria analysis with criteria for all 4 types of negative consequences were applied on the different scenarios of measures. A basic result can be found in figure 5.3 but the final ranking are depending on the stakeholders involvement, their visions and their weights.

Figure 5.3 Score of the different scenarios of measures in the MCA analysis for the Dijle around Leuven

Source: VMM 2011 and CIS WG Floods Workshop on Floods and Economics, Ghent, 25-16/10/2010
Note: reference = actual situation including already decided measures, scenario 1 = flood conveyance (infrastructure works in the city), scenario 2 = flood storage concentrated in nature areas upstream, scenario 3 = flood storage distributed in the valley, scenario 4 = further upstream flood storage in Wallonia, scenario 5 = non-structural measures (prevention, flood forecasting, resilience measures and improved assistance)

Source: VMM 2011, FloodResilienCity (www.floodresiliencity.eu), http://whc.unesco.org

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:09:55

    what is the main message of box 5.6? should the title not reflect the fact that it was a case study?

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5.2.2.      Responses

The assessment and management of floods in the EU Floods Directive are addressed in a risk-based framework to effectively cope with the random and uncertainty nature of the flood phenomenon. A risk management framework for floods should include: preventive and protection measures including spatial and land use planning to avoid damages and infrastructure works, preparedness measures including early warning systems, response measures for an effective crisis management during floods and recovery actions for an efficient return to a well-functioning state of people, economies and ecosystems and to make sure important lessons are learned.

Figure 5.4 Flood Risk Management Cycle, with focus of EU Floods Directive on prevention, protection and preparedness

Source: EEA

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:10:51

    title should rather be something like: (responses:) integrated risk management

    I would rather use an established graph instead of fig. 5.4 (e.g. the one from the EEA hazard report)

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The Floods Directive (EC 2007c) seeks to improve the international cooperation in between regions and member states using a structured three-step approach to floods risk management:

1.         Based on available or easy derivable information, a preliminary flood risk assessment (PFRA) is made using information from past floods and their impacts, hydrological modelling and of available projections (including climate change scenarios) indicating potential future flood risks. In principle all types of floods are taken into account, including but not limited to fluvial, coastal, pluvial, and groundwater floods. Based on this PFRA a selection of areas with potential significant flood risk (APSFR) is made where more in depth analyses are carried out.

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2.         For the APSFR a more detailed analysis is made, starting with two series of flood maps ready by the end of 2013 at the latest. The flood hazard maps describe the physical aspects of the flood such as the extend of the flood, water depth, flow velocity etc. for events with a high, medium (at least 1% annual probability) and low probability of occurrence. For each of these events actual flood risk maps are developed, indication the impact and consequences of these floods. Not only people (victims, evacuated and affected persons etc.) and economic consequences are taken into account, but the EU Floods Directive explicitly mentions ecological impacts and consequences for cultural heritage as well. These maps are the knowledge base for the third step

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3.         The third and final step in the cycle is the establishment of flood risk management plans (FRMPs) for the APSFR by 2015. The FRMPs have to be coordinated at the level of the whole catchment as rivers and floods are not necessarily confined to administrative borders. The member states have to establish appropriate objectives and the FRMPs should include and prioritise measures to reduce the consequences of flooding for human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activities by addressing all phases of the flood risk management cycle, particularly focusing on prevention, protection, and preparedness.  FRMP shall take into account relevant aspects such as costs and benefits, flood conveyance routes and areas which have the potential to retain flood water, such as natural floodplains and the environmental objectives of the Water Framework directive. Explicitly mentioned issues to make the link in between the floods directive and the environmental objectives of the water framework directive are soil and water management, spatial planning, land use, nature conservation, navigation and port infrastructure.

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Due to the nature of flooding, notwithstanding the enumeration of elements to take into account, much flexibility on objectives and measures are left to the Member States in view of subsidiarity. Not only must FRMP be made available to the public, as for the PFRA, APSFR and the flood hazard maps and flood risk maps) but an active involvement of interested parties shall be encouraged.

After 2015 a new 6 year cycle starts consisting of the same 3 steps. A central element in effective flood risk management is the identification of measures, e.g. as categorised in Table 5.1.

Table5.1 Potential measures for flood risk management

Functional group

Type of measure



Underlying instrument

Structural Measures

Flood control

Flood water storage



Flood protection standard; investment programme


Flood polder

River training


By-pass channel


Flood protection



Mobile wall

Drainage and pumping


Urban sewer system

Pumping system

Non-structural measures

Flood control

Adapted land use in source area (catchment of the headwater)

Conservation tillage

Restriction of land use in source areas; priority area Flood control “flood prevention”


River management


Dredging of sediments

Investment/maintenance programme

Use and retreat


Land use in flood-prone area

Avoiding land use in flood prone areas

Restriction of land use in flood zones; building ban; hazard and risk map; insurance premium according to flood zone

Relocation of buildings from flood prone areas

Flood proofing

Adapted construction

Flood forecasting and warning system; civil defence or disaster protection act


Relocation of susceptible infrastructure



Evacuation of human life

Evacuation of assets



Water management

Restriction of land uses in floodplains and source areas


Flood protection standards

Civil protection

Civil protection and disaster protection act

Spatial planning


Priority area “flood prevention”

Building ban

Financial stimulation


Financial incentives

Investment programmes (e.g. for river works)


Subsidies for relocation or adaptation

Financial disincentives


Insurance premium according to flood zone





Information event



Instruction, warning


Hazard and risk map

Forecasting and warning system


Loss compensation

Insurance payments


Source: Flood-ERA / Schanze et al. (2008)

  • ernst.ueberreiter@lebensministerium.at (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 24 Aug 2012 14:20:55

    For reasons of consistency with implementation of Floods Directive the list in Table 5.1 on potential measures for flood risk management should be streamlined with the "List of types of measures" developed under the WG F – Drafting Group on Reporting.

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The highest costs are usually associated with structural measures and technical flood protection measures. However, more cost efficient measures can often be achieved through a combination of structural and non-structural measures such as spatial planning, behavioural adaptation and catchment management. A distinction that should be made here is the difference in between effective and efficient flood measures. Effectiveness is a result-based term and describes the degree of goal achievement in terms of risk reduction or effects towards risk reduction. Efficiency is a yield-based term and describes how economically an intended risk reduction or an effect towards risk reduction has been achieved. The term “economically” relates to the expenditure of both time and effort (CRUE et al. 2009).

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When floods occur the focus is on crisis management. Contingency plans have to ensure that information flows between all responsible actors, bringing the information together to support operational actions. Many actors are involved including water managers, emergency services, volunteers and those responsible for infrastructures and their maintenance. Flood event management includes forecasting and the provision of warnings, deployment of temporary flood protection structures and emergency response.

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A real time early warning system can be an effective non-structural management tool. It enables authorities to start implementing contingency plans, such as evacuations of inhabitants and the mobilisation of rescue forces. Several countries have developed systems for flood warning at national, regional and local level that are connected with systems for initiating evacuation actions. For example, Finland has a real time web based Catchment simulation and forecasting system which provides information on floods and flood warnings. (see Box 5.7 for more details)

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Box 5.7 Flood risk forecasting in Finland

Flood risk assessment and flood control in Finland has been developed in a series of research projects and continuous development work. This has led to the creation of a flood forecasting and warning systems and specific projects for floodwater management.

The basis is a hydrological watershed model system (WSFS) maintained by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). It uses observation and forecasting input from the Finnish Meteorological Institute on weather and combines it with a network of hydrological and meteorological observation points and remote sensing information.

Figure 5.5 Flooding at Vöyrinjoki River in the summer 2004

Photo: Unto Tapio

The WSFS is used for flood forecasting, real-time monitoring, nutrient load simulation and climate change research. Hydrological water balance maps are created in real time. Forecasts are made daily for over 500 discharge and water level observation points. Forecasts are used for lake regulation planning and flood damage prevention. The information is available on the internet to public and authorities.

Interactive maps allow users to zoom in on their area of interest. It includes information on hazards by providing, for example, flood and water level warnings and precipitation warnings both for the last 24 hour and 3 day forecasts. Warnings are graded and expressed with colour symbols.

In addition to the warnings the system provides continuously updated information on, for example, runoff, precipitation, snow cover, water equivalent of snow, snow melt, soil moisture deficit and water level. Furthermore nutrient loads are simulated.

For more information see: http://www.environment.fi/floods and http://www.ymparisto.fi/default.asp?contentid=373979&lan=en&clan=en

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After a flood disaster relief, reconstruction actions and financial compensations become part of the management activities. Flood events may also change past risk assessments, put pressure on developing flood defences and lead to the adjustment of regulations and norms (Merz et al. 2010). Careful documentation of the event is necessary in order to learn from the experiences. General flood impact databases such as EM-DAT (2012) or Dartmouth Flood Observatory (2012) exist to give a general overview, but for true learning more detailed documentation is needed. The development of such detailed flood impact data bases is going on in several EU member states and also at the European level.

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:13:41

    ...for true learning, more detailed documentation is needed...

    >> true, but not really specific. on the one hand, the generic database should be improved (do you mean this), by e.g. establishing the EU flood impact db -- on the other side, for larger events, a more detailed event analysis should be performed.


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Box 5.8 Room for the river or retaining water in the landscape

“Room for the river”, also known as “space for water” or “Ruimte voor de river” is a group of measures taken within the floodplain and involving natural and forced (polders) flooding areas.

For the Kamp catchment in Austria, the effectiveness and efficiency of “Room for the river” was compared with the one for retaining water in the landscape by micro ponds or afforestation (Francés et al. 2008). For afforestation, the reduction is higher in dry initial conditions than in wet conditions, because the initially available soil storage capacity and the available interception storage is higher. For retention elements on the slopes (micro-ponds) or in the channel network (dams) the wet conditions produce higher peak reductions.

In general, the potential additional storage capacity resulting from afforestation and micro-ponds will have a physical limit which can be exceeded only by intensive measures such as dams. If the potentially damaged values in the flooded area have a high risk exposure, the smaller and more frequent events can have a large contribution to the total risk compared to the exceptional events. The effect of retention measures in the landscape is much higher for small events than for large events. As a result the risk reduction for these types of measures can be higher than expected from the hazard reduction.

In the Kamp catchment, significant reductions in the flood peaks can be obtained when retention basins along the main stream are constructed and the flood plains are inundated. However, a lot of room is needed for these measures. The main advantage of the room for the river methodology is that the polders/retention basins can be designed in a way that there is no retention for small flood discharges which leaves the full storage capacity for larger floods at the time of peak.

The peak runoff reduction of “retaining water in the landscape” measures is a function of flood return period, reducing its effectiveness with the flood magnitude. “Room for the river” seems more effective for medium return periods (see figure 5.6). It may be useful to combine these measures with other positive effects such as soil conservation, sediment transport reduction and environment protection.

Figure 5.6 Estimated flood peak reductions for different measures in the Kamp catchement (Austria)

Source: Room for the river / Francés et al. (2008)
Note: "room for the river" method =retention basins and flood inundation along the river reaches, "retaining water in the landscape" methods = micro-ponds and afforestation

Source: Francés et al. 2008; CRUE et al. 2009

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Urban flood risk management

Many cities and towns are situated in locations that are prone to fluvial flooding such as deltas and flood plains. Cities that are far away from water bodies prone can also be liable to pluvial flooding as a result of intense rainfall, often exacerbated by extensive land sealing and drainage networks with insufficient capacity. Urban floods affect infrastructure, assets and urban activities, including transport. They can cause health risks due to overflowing sewers and intrusion of surface water into water supply systems. Urban floods also increase the risk of pollution of water courses into which storm water and flood water drains.

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:14:14

    are you consistent with the terms pluvial flood, urban floods etc?

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There is a general consensus that society needs urban areas to be more resilient to flooding. Flood-proofing of buildings is a well-known measure towards achieving this, sustainable urban drainage another. Green infrastructure can also provide opportunities for addressing problems caused by land sealing in urban areas (EEA 2010c; EEA 2012c). Reducing the vulnerability of urban areas to floods requires detailed knowledge of local conditions. Measures have to deal with water supply, waste water treatment, rain water runoff and special conditions such as snow melt. There is a need for research into the effects of extreme weather events on urban drainage, water management and water treatment. Urban water management approaches have to be developed that take into account both risks and all positive aspects of water in the urban environment. Water is a necessary element in a sustainable urban environment, but climate change may change conditions for current practices related to urban drainage, water management and treatment. More details on Urban adaptation and water can be found in EEA (2012b).

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Box 5.9 Flooding in the UK 2007 – lessons to be learned

The flood events experienced in the UK in the summer of 2007 were in large parts caused by three storms of record-breaking magnitude and spatial extent. For example, the storm of the 19th-20th July produced up to 140 mm of localised rainfall, estimated to have a return period of about 100-years (Marsh and Hannaford 2007). The resulting flood peaks exceeded previous maximum recorded flow in numerous locations, and estimated return periods exceed 100-years in several places. The extensive flood damages caused by the unusual hydrological conditions of 2007 are well-documented. Over 55,000 homes and 6,000 businesses were flooded; the related insurance claims were approaching €4.5 billion by late-2007. Many flooded and low-lying localities had to be evacuated

Following the summer 2007 floods, the UK Government asked Sir Michael Pitt to undertake a comprehensive review of the lessons to be learned from the events. During the fact-finding over a 10 months period, the review team examined over 1000 written submissions, considered experiences of other countries and visited communities affected by flooding. The outcome of the review was a report published in June 2008 containing 92 recommendations on how to improve flood risk management (Pitt 2008). Actions following the review included the need for a step change in the quality of flood warnings, a greater role for local authorities in flood risk management, better planning and protection for critical infrastructure, and raising public awareness of flood risk. Many of the recommendations have now been put into practise (Defra 2009).

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Dam safety

The Floods Directive (EC 2007c) does not specifically refer to flooding resulting from dam breaks and dike breaches, and it does not deal with the technical aspects of dam safety. However, it does require flood hazard maps to be produced for floods with a low probability, implying consideration of extreme event scenarios, such as dam breaks. There are no EU wide regulations devoted exclusively to dam safety, but the SEVESO II Directive (EC 1997) on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances, and its amendment (EC 2003), addresses aspects that are relevant to dam safety, by demanding, for example, emergency plans.

  • andre.wehrli@bafu.admin.ch (invited by Wouter Vanneuville) 16 Aug 2012 16:14:30

    does this chapter really belong here??

    • vannewou (Wouter Vanneuville) 22 Aug 2012 16:41:27

      does this chapter really belong here??

      part on dam safety deleted

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Regulation of dam safety is an important factor in the prevention of disasters, and concerns not only pluvial or fluvial floods but is also an essential element in industrial operations that use tailing dams. Many countries have a long history of regulatory frameworks for dam safety (Bradlow et al., 2002). Important aspects include the legal form of the regulation, the institutional arrangements for regulating dam safety, the powers of the regulating entity, and the contents of the regulatory scheme. Historically some countries have focused on the safety aspect only, whereas others have also included dam construction, operation, maintenance, and surveillance.

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The concern for dam safety has also resulted in the creation of organizations devoted to dam safety, for example, the International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD). In many countries dams have been classified according to the hazard potential; the class 'high' generally indicates that the failure or mis-operation will probably cause loss of human life. Dams assigned a high hazard potential should fulfil very strict technical and hydrological criteria in their construction and maintenance. Emergency Action Plans and Early Warning Systems are necessary non-structural tools to minimize the impacts of dam failures.

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