ACER – Developing adaptive capacity to extreme events in the Rhine basin

Background and Goals

The project is part of the Dutch research programme "Climate changes Spatial Planning (CcSP)" and linked with the Nwater project of the 6th research framework programme.

The project aims to identify how long-term developments such as the climate change, socio-economic development, spatial planning and policy development can affect water management in the Rhine basin. First, the project investigates how long-term trends affect the frequency and extend of high and low water. One important aspect will be to quantify the probability of occurrence of flooding and drought events.

As soon as the long-term consequences have been identified, different strategies are to be developed for dealing with the climate change effects. The strategies are to be jointly developed in workshops by stakeholders from the Netherlands and Germany.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Swiss
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Bavaria
Natural spatial classification
  • Low mountain ranges left and right of Rhine
  • Upper Rhine Rift
  • West German lowland bay

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

To investigate the effects of changes in land use and topography using a coupled model (RAMS-SWAPS-C) on precipitation in the Rhine catchment and an atmospheric-hydrological model, which describes the energy and water balance of the entire Rhine basin.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • River flooding
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Low water
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
Further Parameters 

changes in runoff

Time horizon
  • medium term = to 2050

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Considere climate change related changes in runoffs for the Rhein; e.g. the frequency of extreme events increase as a result of climate change.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

There are transnational adaptation measures / strategies considered, which can make the water management in the Rhine catchment area (especially in the Lower Rhine region on the border between the Netherlands and Germany)  more robust to climate change-induced change in the intensity of extreme events. The strategies are designed that they can increase the adaptive capacity in the water management. This also includes specific regional planning measures for local actors of water management. The effectiveness of the new adaptation measures will be evaluated on the basis of an integrated hydrodynamic model for the entire Rhine catchment area. Criteria for this review is to prevent or reduce the impact of extreme events and the ability to reduce risk (as a product of probability and harm).

Time horizon
  • 2011–2040 (near future)
  • 2021–2050 (near future)
  • 2036–2065


Funding / Financing 

supported by the dutch BSIK-CcSP-program

Project management 

Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Wageningen University & Research centre (WUR), Earth System Science and Climate Change Group;

VU University Amsterdam, Institute for Enviromental Studies (IVM);

Seecon GmBh; Alterra; University of Osnabrück; RIZA;



TU Delft


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1087
1081 HV Amsterdam

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Fields of action:
 spatial, regional and urban land use planning  water regime, water management