Climate change could lead to both flooding and drought

Summary

The water management sector in Flanders has reported research that shows climate change and urbanisation could lead to serious problems including more summer storms and fewer light rain showers

Weather extremes

Climate change research shows that summer storms will become more extreme, but there will be much fewer small rain showers. The total amount of rainfall in summer will decrease.

As a result, climate change will cause two water management problems: an increased chance of drought and low-water problems on the one hand, and on the other hand more flooding – especially sewer flooding.

The findings were reported by Vlario, the knowledge centre and discussion platform for the sewer and waste water purification sector in Flanders. The conclusions are based on a study by professor Patrick Willems of the University of Leuven on urbanisation and climate change.

To deal with the more extreme summer storms, Vlario estimates that about 30% more buffer provisions should be built in Flanders. If no action is taken, sewers will flood on average twice as often as now. The increased drought would lower the low-water flow rate in Flemish rivers considerably.

According to Vlario, increasing urbanisation in Flanders exacerbates both the flooding and drought problems, because it causes a quicker runoff of rainwater to sewers while also reducing the replenishment of the groundwater level.

Vlario advises tackling the two problems through a joint policy and to focusing on projects such as storage provisions.

Photo courtesy VRT