ClimWatAdapt: Climate Adaptation – modelling water scenarios and sectoral impacts

Background and Goals

The European Commission’s white paper on adaptation ("Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action")  recognises that adaptation is already happening in Europe, but in a piecemeal manner. This project therefore intends to addresses a number of the strategic issues and knowledge gaps identified in the White Paper.  Thus ClimWatAdapt fully supports the comprehensive adaptation strategy intended by the European Commission in water management. In its whole, the project results represent a series of tools which shall help improve the quality of adaptation measures, the knowledge base, and facilitate the exchange of adaptation best practice between countries and regions. Stakeholder feedback is a key component of this project.

The aim of the project is to identify water-related climate change vulnerabilities as well as compile and assess suitable adaptation measures. To this end, the vulnerability and the adaptive capacity of various sectors in the river basins of  Europe will be investigated. The project will support the coherence, timeliness and effectiveness of of the adaptation efforts in Europe. In addition, the knowledge base will be expanded and the exchange of adaptation best practice between countries and regions will be made easier.

The most important objectives of the project are:

  • To create an Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF), which brings together the existing models, datasets and scenarios.  The geographic resolution is strongly dependent on the available data, but should allow an analysis at the level of the river catchments of the EU27 Member States. Additional information from the regional and sectoral perspective is expected by experts and stakeholders. To this end, there will be 3 expert meetings and 2 stakeholder workshops.
  •  The application of a comprehensive scenario package for analysing the future climate change vulnerability. The assumption of different socio-economic and political developments allows a differentiated view of future vulnerability, in relation to these factors.
  •  The identification and assessment of potential adaptation measures. In a first step, the potential adaptation measures will be consolidated and prepared for the assessment. In a second step the effectiveness certain adaptation measures in reducing climate change vulnerability is assessed. The adaptation measures are either assessed qualitatively or quantitatively, depending on the available data and the nature of the measure.

The central result of the project is the so-called Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF), which brings together the existing models, datasets and scenarios. This Integrated Assessment Framework will become part of the emergent EU clearing house for climate change adaptation.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • Europe

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The results of the ENSEMBLES project were used; IPCC emission scenario A1B for the LISFLOOD model; WaterGAP model results, as well as socio-economic data from the SCENES project were also used;

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures

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

Approach and results 

Up to the middle of the century, extreme high water levels will occur more and more frequently in many European rivers, thus increasing the flood risk.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

The main objective of this project was to assess water-related climate change vulnerabilities as well as identify the most vulnerable areas. The most frequently used definition of vulnerability is that also used by the IPCC and EEA, with its three components exposure, susceptibility and adaptive capacity:

  • Exposure is defined as the nature and degree to which a system is exposed to climate change.  
  • Susceptibility is defined as the degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate-related stimuli
  • Adaptive capacity is defined as the ability of a system to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Vulnerability to water scarcity is determined by the discrepancy between water supply and demand. If water demand exceeds water availability, this will result in a water deficit, which will negatively influence the socio-ecological system. Vulnerability to flooding is determined by the extent to which the socio-ecological system can (or cannot) be protected against flooding. Changes in flooding exposure and in the socio-ecological system in the flood-prone zone can result in loss of shelter, loss of jobs and loss of livelihood.

The Integrated Assessment Framework helps understand the regional and sectoral differences with regard to the vulnerability to climate change effects.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

In addition to identifying the most vulnerable areas and sectors in Europe, the purpose of the IAF (Integrated Assessment Framework) is to show concrete adaptation strategies. Water-related adaptation measures were collected in a database and assessed with regard to their ecological, economic and social effectiveness.

Time horizon
  • 2036–2065


Funding / Financing 

European Commission

Project management 

Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), University of Kassel;


Ecologic Institute; Alterra, Wageningen University; Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change (CMCC);


Universität Kassel
Center for Environmental Systems Research
Wilhelmshöher Allee 47
34117 Kassel

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Fields of action:
 water regime and water management