Extreme weather

EXTREMEly resilient urban water systems

How can we enhance the resilience of Berlin to increasingly frequent water-extreme events?

How can open data and crowd-sourced information enhance the resilience of Berlin and the cities of tomorrow to increasingly frequent water-extreme events (flash floods and droughts) via improved real-time warning and long-term forecasting?
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Challenge description

The increasing concentration of water demands into urban areas requires safe and secure urban water networks, reliable water supply, operations, and management strategies. In addition to the challenges posed by urbanization and ageing urban water networks, climate change and the increasing occurrence of extreme rainfall events and droughts demand for resilient urban water networks in the coming decades.

In Berlin, 2017 recorded the heaviest rainfall event of the last 110 years, with about a quarter of the normal annual rainfall volume falling in only 18 hours. Extreme rainfall events can also affect the surrounding environment, especially in cities with a combined sewer network system, like Berlin. 

While floods seem to generate the most tangible short-term water-related damages in urban environments, concerns are emerging also on the medium- and long-term effects of prolonged drought conditions. Frequent dry periods in the summer might end up with reduced water supply for the irrigation of private and public green spots.

We seek for solutions to these specific questions:

  • How can crowd-sourced information be used and sustained to identify/map/monitor vulnerable areas to flash floods and develop early-warning systems?
  • How can open data (e.g., satellite images) be used to forecast the short-, medium-, and long-term impacts of droughts/floods in urban areas?
  • Which interconnections between water networks and other infrastructure/networks (e.g., energy grid, transportation, telecommunications) can be exploited to develop integrated solutions?
  • Which management/control strategies, possibly including efforts by citizens, can help reduce overflows from combined sewer systems?
  • What is the role of water utilities and municipalities in the developed solutions? Who will benefit from them?

Challenge vision

Possible solutions should be built on currently open data and crowd-sourced information, or demonstrate the potential of open and crowd-sourced data to complement data from existing sensor networks such as:

  • Hardware/software products and services (e.g., mathematical models, control systems, forecasting, alert/warning, and monitoring systems)
  • New business models to support district-level and decentralized solutions (e.g., decentralized rainwater harvesting technologies)
  • Policy- and society-oriented conceptual frameworks and management strategies, e.g., education and awareness campaigns, behavior-based interventions, public participation, community-oriented and bottom-up measures, citizen-science based methods.

 

Download material

Want to learn more? A more detailed explanation of the challenge as well as detailed use cases with related data sources (provided by Berliner Wasserbetriebe, Berlin's water utility) can be downloaded here.

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