Changing precipitation patterns, especially extreme rainfall events, in combination with changes in snow run-off will lead to changes in flood risk in the Alps. In many regions more frequent and more severe floods risk to cause increasing damage and growing economic losses if no – or the wrong – adaptation measures are taken. Flood hazard zones are likely to extend in many places, while at the same time ongoing expansion of settlements and cumulating economic values increase the damage potential independently of climate change.
As the Alpine water system is extremely interlinked and many river systems are transboundary, a coordinated flood risk management which avoids upstream-downstream conflicts needs to be implemented, prioritising as much as possible “nature-based solutions” or “soft” adaptation measures (e.g., “passive flood protection” by means of spatial planning and natural retention areas vs. river engineering and structural protection measures, as well as proper forest management). The advantage in nature-based solutions lies in their flexibility towards different kinds of disaster (different water flow or precipitation patterns, floods as well as droughts).
Nature-based solutions however are only effective if even selective measures are planned in a coordinated way. Therefore transboundary cooperation is crucial.
Knowledge on regional natural risks and information on self-empowerment shall be used and spread.
For instance the document “Green infrastructure solutions for an integrated and sustainable water management – Recommendations and good practices”, adopted by EUSALP in 2019, already compiles good practice examples from Alpine countries and highlights recommendations for different types of rivers, with a specific focus on the dilemma of climate change adaptation needs and spatial pressure in the Alps.
This document, as well as further already existing recommendations, can be adapted for use under the Alpine Convention and disseminated by integrating it into the agendas of different regional workshops already happening in the Alps.
Ongoing planning processes for flood management on Alpine rivers will be identified, and discussions started on how those could take into account the recommendations (see Step 1a).
At the same time, better coordination of planning activities in all countries of transboundary rivers are promoted by ACB members and respective representatives of the Alpine Convention Contracting Parties.
At the same time, better coordination of planning activities in all countries of transboundary rivers is promoted by ACB members and respective representatives of the Alpine Convention Contracting Parties.
This allows for a larger planning frame on the spatial level, and therefore enhanced effectiveness of the individual measures.
Floods are one of the most common natural hazards in the Alps. In cooperation with the pathway “IP_NH1: Implementation of an Alpine-wide risk management plan on natural hazards”, it will be checked how flood prevention measures can be integrated in the early warning system.
Water management in the Alps faces new challenges due to climate change: Climate change leads to changes in precipitation patterns and puts additional pressures on Alpine water resources, resulting in exceptional situations of both water scarcity and floods. There tends to be less snow but more rain in winter and less water in summer, with drought episodes becoming more frequent, especially in the southern and south-eastern Alps. The decrease of snow and the melting of glaciers also reduce the amount of stored water. The use of water for agriculture, households, hydropower generation and tourism needs to be managed carefully to prevent conflicts of usage and to keep the water ecosystems functional.
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