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Antwerp delves into Copenhagen’s cloudburst management plan

  • environment

Representatives from the city of Antwerp visited Copenhagen on 25-28 April to learn about its unique cloudburst strategy.

The visit was organised under the Mayors Adapt initiative on urban adaptation to climate change, now part of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

Huge floods in Copenhagen in July 2011 and August 2014 caused billions of euros worth of damage, and have prompted the quick development and universal support for a climate adaptation plan with cloudburst as a key driver. Cloudburst is the term used for extreme precipitation, sometimes accompanied by hail and thunder, which can dump large amounts of water in a short period of time.

Copenhagen's cloudburst management plan now forms the backbone of its city development plan. The plan comprises 300 projects designed to cope with surplus rainwater through grey-green solutions (a combination of human and natural infrastructure). These range from water corridors to divert rainwater away from living areas or transport systems, retention zones in parks and on the sides of roads, or incentive schemes to encourage private landowners to disconnect their rainwater pipes from the sewage system. Copenhagen has also used its cloudburst management plan to develop a strategy for a greener city, with the aim of improving quality of life for citizens. 

Copenhagen's strength lies in the unique collaborative approach it used to develop this adaptation strategy. The city works together with utility company HOFOR, landowner associations (a third of Copenhagen's streets are privately owned), insurance companies, and city residents. These partnerships enable resources to be pooled and the development of a long-term risk management approach in which everyone has a role to play. 

While it has so far been spared extreme cloudbursts, Antwerp is facing greater exposure to rainfall, rising sea levels and fluvial floods. The city is looking for actions that could help mitigate these risks in the short-term and lay the groundwork for a more long-term adaptation strategy. There is also strong demand in Antwerp for more green spaces. The city representatives were inspired by the water flow solutions developed by HOFOR, but also more generally by the way Copenhagen has turned the threat of flooding into an opportunity for city development. The findings will soon be available in a twinning report. 

EUROCITIES runs the Mayors Adapt twinning programme and is organising ten twinning visits in 2016. Stay tuned and follow us on #MayorsAdaptTwinning