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Water utilities prepared for climate change hazards

Europe's water sector must be ready for the potential impacts of climate change. These include flooding, droughts, changes in temperature and an increase in extreme weather conditions.

Climate Change and Environment

The EU-funded PREPARED (Prepared "enabling change") project addressed the practical problems and decisions that urban water utilities could face as a result of the changing climate. The different tools and solutions developed through this project were demonstrated in some of the 14 participating cities. Project researchers, universities and technology suppliers worked together with industry and European city utilities to develop an advanced strategy for meeting the new challenges for water supply and sanitation systems (including storm water). This included the development and demonstration of tools and decision-support systems in real-life situations to help water utilities prepare for an uncertain future. It also linked research with development and investment programmes in these utilities. To support the important role of risk management in decision-making, a tool was developed that allows users to choose between simulations of future scenarios. This participatory approach enabled change within the local and national decision-making processes, which were positively affected, at local level, through the city utilities. The consortium also improved existing monitoring methods through better use and design of sensors in the water system and computer models. PREPARED created a forum to enable participating cities and utilities to share knowledge and experience on their demonstration activities, as well as on other national research. The long-term goal was to establish a dynamic network of cities and their utilities that would continue after the project concluded. The consortium produced a range of validated measures addressing the challenges of water scarcity and water quality as a result of rising temperatures and also water quantity problems caused by increasingly frequent extreme rain fall events. In addition, PREPARED examined alternative solutions such as storage and the use of 'grey' water and rain water. Project partners developed the Water Cycle Safety Plan (WCSP). Based on a holistic risk management approach to the urban water cycle, this tool identified and prioritised climate change-related risks for the whole water system. The WCSP was also supported by databases for water cycle and climate change hazards over the short, medium and long terms. Project outcomes were used as input for the planning, investment and rehabilitation programmes of participating cities, for short and long periods of time. Feedback from the successes and difficulties of the project were shared with relevant actors of the European water sector. The overall result is a more resilient and flexible water supply and sanitation systems better prepared for climate change.


Water utilities, climate change, water supply, sanitation, risk management

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