KlimaNet - Water sensitive urban development: Network for sustainable adaptation of regional residential water management to climate trends and extreme weather

Background and Goals

Effects of the anticipated climate change are forecast to include an increase in severe rain events putting an excessive strain on drainage systems and negative consequences for watercourses associated with longer dry periods on the one hand. On the other hand, longer dry weather periods and the rise in annual mean air temperature could cause a shift in the water balance and a reduction in available water resources, which could impair drinking water supplies. Particularly for areas with severely worn out groundwater reservoirs and for regions drawing a high proportion of their drinking and tap water from surface watercourses (e.g. reservoirs, river filtrate), there is a need to draw up and implement sustainable solutions to adapt the drinking water supply to future climate trends.

In the course of the foreseeable reorganisation of residential areas, triggered partly by the emerging population trend in Germany, measures should be simultaneously implemented to appropriately combat the impact of changed climate trends and the shift in extreme weather statistics on water management. To address these challenges, the project will set up an interdisciplinary competence network made up largely of players from the residential water management, urban engineering and social and natural sciences sectors, which will analyse the impacts of climate change on water management in North Rhineland Westphalia and identify possible responses.

The objective of the interdisciplinary project is to tap into potential in the settlement structure development to compensate for the expected effects of climate change with the necessary structural changes resulting from demographic change. The 1st phase of the network creation project is complete. The objective of this phase was to establish a network and identify possible applications of water sensitive urban development. In the 2nd phase, which has been running since 01.04.2008, the theoretical principles of water sensitive urban development have been analysed in more detail, particularly from an urban and open space planning perspective, and the opportunities for water sensitive urban development have been outlined using examples in Bochum, Essen and Herne. The methodology adopted involves creating scenarios for different levels of implementation of water sensitive urban development depending on the change processes occurring (climate, demographics). This is done by mapping the different scenarios using simulation techniques, in order to be able to derive conclusions about the adaptation of urban living space and residential water management.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Bavaria
  • Northrhine-Westphalia
Natural spatial classification
  • West German lowland bay

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Use of current regional climate projections provided by the Service Group Adaptation (see Climate Service Center 2.0); water management modelling using a linked 1D and 2D canal network and surface runoff simulation.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
Further Parameters 

climatic water balance

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

Approach and results 

The main climate effect is the increase in severe rain events, which can lead to excessive strain on drainage systems. As a consequence, properties and buildings could be flooded and a strain placed on nearby watercourses. In addition, longer periods of dry weather and the rise in mean annual air temperature could cause a shift in the water balance and a reduction in available water resources, with negative consequences for watercourses, particularly in urban areas.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Water management issues and urban planning must be seen in an overall context. Therefore, in the city of Bochum there is an analysis of how the precipitation volumes to be drained can be reduced in densely built-up districts. By contrast, the focus of the studies in Essen is on networking of city centre green spaces to channel precipitation, with the aim of being able to store it for later use. In Herne, the analysis centres on how those responsible for existing industrial wastelands and transformation areas can be converted, so that the volumes of precipitation water to be drained can also be reduced, and the natural water cycle strengthened. In addition, changes in mass flows will be calculated.

The objective is to develop adaptation measures to reduce water sensitivity, by adapting urban development and creating networks for sustainable adaptation of regional residential water management to climate trends and extreme weather.


Funding / Financing 

BMBF funding programme klimazwei - Research for Climate Protection and Protection from Climate Impacts

Project management 

Institut für Stadtbauwesen und Stadtverkehr (ISB) of RWTH Aachen University


Emschergenossenschaft und Lippeverband;

Ruhrverband; Gelsenwasser AG;

Institut für Stadtbauwesen und Stadtverkehr (ISB) of RWTH Aachen University;

Chair for environmental psychology & cognition of Ruhr-Universität Bochum;

University of Duisburg-Essen


ISA - Institut für Siedlungswasserwirtschaft der RWTH Aachen
Mies-van-der-Rohe Strasse 1
52074 Aachen

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