Adaptation to climate change

Climate related changes in rainfall, temperature and sea levels will have an impact on communities, companies and industries worldwide. At NUSDeltares, we are actively working to develop the crucial knowledge needed to address the effects of climate change. The questions we ask ourselves are: how will climate related changes affect different regions, activities and livelihoods? How can we reduce uncertainty of climate projections such that our climate adaptation investments are more cost-effective? What are optimal long-term solutions to deal with rising sea levels, incidental floods, elevated temperatures and droughts? How can we ensure sufficient and high quality freshwater availability under these circumstances?

People flooded under bridge

Our research includes assessing the effects of climate change on hydrology, hydrogeology and ecology, determining the vulnerability of natural and man-made systems to it, and supporting the development of cost-effective society and government responses.

Building Climate Robust Cities

To adapt to climate change and address the effects of extreme weather events requires water robust development – or redevelopment – of urban areas through integrated planning and action at the local level. NUSDeltares’ approach includes green adaptation and measures to cope with too much or too little water, while taking into account natural dynamics by ensuring the continuous provision of ecosystem services (water purification, water retention, e.g.). Some examples include:

  • Flood risk management is aimed at reducing the loss of life, distress and economic damage caused by floods. NUSDeltares is involved in flood risk assessment, flood preparedness emergency response planning, flood monitoring and early warning. We provide our  Clients with a thorough (and quantitative) analysis of the characteristics and consequences of a flood event, so that we can jointly develop cost-effective responses.
  • Drought risk management is aimed at maintaining or improving the capacity of a region to cope with droughts. NUSDeltares is involved in drought preparedness planning, monitoring and early warning, and offers guidance on appropriate measures to be implemented in response to droughts.
  • Groundwater Management is important for supporting land use and ensuring a clean and safe drinking water supply. Changes in rainfall patterns and evaporation rates can affecting recharge, water storage, levels and flows, while sea level rise may affect the salinisation of groundwater. NUSDeltares provides Clients with location specific strategies for maintaining groundwater quality and approaches for sustainable extraction and recharge.
  • Heat management is possible using a carefully designed water system for buildings and urban areas, which can carry away or even recycle heat for use as a sustainable source of energy. Air temperatures in urban areas are higher than in rural areas. This Urban Heat Island effect will be exacerbated by rising temperatures and longer dry periods. We provide advice on how to design or improve urban water systems to contribute to better urban heat management.

 

Adaptation Strategies

We advise authorities on the development of climate adaptation strategies, and have the tools to design, evaluate and select the optimal set of solutions. Issues we consider include how to deal with uncertainty (by choosing robust, resilient and flexible/adaptive strategies), as well as understanding the costs and benefits of the measures, expressed not only in monetary value, but also in terms of the impact they have on how people live, work and play. We look at the technical skills required for implementation, as well as potential barriers to it. In our innovation programmes, we develop promising and innovative measures, for example delta levees, multi-functional dikes, giant terps and climate buffers, which are also tested for their commercial viability.

  • Preparation of water scenarios
    Sound predictions of the demand and availability of water are essential for the development of Water Resources Management plans. To assess the possible impact of climate change, NUSDeltares develops water scenarios by combining results of climate models with hydrological modelling, while incorporating scenarios for population growth and economic development. We have considerable experience in preparing water scenarios for many regions in the world, and also on a global scale. We use information from global climate models accessible through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or regional scenarios, either from high resolution regional climate models. In consultation with our client, we classify the results of the model simulations based on their likelihood.
  • Tipping Points and Adaptation Pathways
    The traditional approach starts with one or more most likely climate scenarios and then develops strategies to reduce the vulnerability of areas or sectors where negative impacts are expected. Our innovative approach starts from the opposite end, examining whether, and for how long, present water management strategies will continue to be effective under different climate scenarios. When should you take which action? This Adaptation Tipping-Point approach identifies the most urgent threats and first issues that need to be dealt with, as well as when they are expected to occur.
  • Water-Robust Design
    Especially in delta cities, it is essential to determine the vulnerability of key infrastructure and development projects, and of large-scale residential areas and industrial sites to extreme weather events and sea level rise. An important question to answer is which critical structures – for example power plants or internet hub stations – require extra attention, and which measures can be taken to prevent or limit the consequences of extreme weather events. NUSDeltares works with their Clients to develop an optimal set of structural and non-structural measures to strengthen the water robustness of critical infrastructure, at different spatial scales, ranging from single properties to whole cities.