The city and an insurer look into water damage together
New insights and partnerships thanks to PREPARED
At the beginning of 2014, the 4-year “PREPARED Enabling Change” research project is wound up. During a well-attended closing conference in Aarhus (Denmark), 120 experts and participating cities and water companies share their knowledge of measures concerning climate change. Also attending is the City of Eindhoven, which has been collaborating more closely with an insurance company as a result of PREPARED.
The European research project “PREPARED Enabling Change” began in 2010 with the objective of making the water sector more climate-proof. It differs from other research projects in that it is not the researchers, but the “problem owners” – the water companies and cities facing water problems – who determine the research that the European Commission should fund. The programme’s coordination is in the hands of KWR’s Adriana Hulsmann. Over a period of 4 years, 12 European cities, Seattle (US) and Melbourne (Australia) collaborated with research institutes and technology providers on customised solutions to overcome the consequences of climate change for the urban water cycle. Climate change has far-reaching implications for the water sector. Periods of extreme precipitation and drought demand smart adaptations in urban areas. With the assignment from “their” cities, the research institutes set to work on identifying suitable solutions. But not only cities and water companies are involved, so too, for instance, are insurance companies, who can calculate the damages for a variety of “water scenarios”.
Watercycle Safety Plan
Luuk Postmes of the City of Eindhoven has worked in PREPARED in close collaboration with KWR’s researcher Patrick Smeets. “Eindhoven functions as a living lab: here solutions can be tested in practice,” says Postmes. “KWR has developed the Watercycle Safety Plan, an approach which identifies a city’s vulnerable areas when it comes to the impact of climate change. This approach was tested in Eindhoven; the waterboard and water company were part of it. As a result, the researchers were able to refine the approach, we could further reinforce our network, and other stakeholders came up with new insights.”
“Now we’re working on a climate adaptation plan and using the knowledge we acquired to better support our choices.”
Eindhoven is working with a German and an English PREPARED partner to develop a method to establish the damages caused by city flooding. “As a city, you invest a lot into meeting the standards, but then you want to know whether the investments bear any relationship with the potential damages. Now, this is not simply a matter of money; you want to be able to assure the citizens that their homes won’t be flooded.” For this project Postmes contacted the Achmea insurance company: he would like to know what the actual damage is that flooding can cause to a home. This led to a fruitful collaboration. “The company was surprised by how knowledgeable we were about the water system. This they could use for their benefit: now they differentiate damages a lot more, they make more precise records and thus have much better organised data.” The city, for its part, also got a lot of interesting information. “The flood damage in homes is not all that bad. Only rarely does the water rise to the point where it flows into a building. Leaking water pipes and overflowing roof gutters cause much more damage. This is useful information if you’re working on the organisation of the water system.”
Various follow-up projects
Looking back on PREPARED, Postmes concludes that participation in the project helped develop a broader understanding and make well-founded choices. “Now we’re working on a climate adaptation plan and using the knowledge we acquired to better support our choices. We also made new, useful contacts.” In 2015, all of the customised solutions developed within PREPARED will be collected in “Climate Change, Water Supply and Sanitation”, a book to be published by the International Water Association (IWA). In the course of 2014, KWR and its partners submitted a project proposal to the European Commission entitled “Bringing INnovation to onGOing water management” (BINGO). The project builds, among others, on PREPARED experiences and results. In 2015, BINGO receives approval within the new Horizon 2020 research programme.
© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute
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Drinking water expert
Senior scientific researcher