Cities with room for water and well-being

Water is in increasingly short supply; in Europe as well as on other continents. At the same time, the effects of climate change are now a reality to which people can increasingly relate to - not everybody knows how to handle these however. Cities in particular are feeling the impact. One of the most pressing questions facing us in the 21st century is this: How do we create cities with room for both water and well-being?

Ørestad, outside Copenhagen, Denmark


Søren Hvilshøj

Søren Hvilshøj

Global Market Director, Water
T: +45 51618245

April, 2012

The cost of cleaning up after the torrential rain in Copenhagen in the summer of 2011 came to around DKK 5 billion - the cost to the population's peace of mind was also significant. It has, however, put both climate adaptation and protection of the water cycle high on the agenda in the country.  Denmark, however, is not the only country that must often deal with heavy rainfall and flooding.  Central Europe in particular has been severely affected over the past 10-15 years - flooding has resulted in loss of human life and monetary costs of an estimated EUR 25 billion.

A shortage of good drinking water is also a cause of worldwide concern, and it's evident that some action needs to be taken. This is the case in many places around the world, including Europe, where water shortages and the resulting reduction in agricultural production has cost Europeans more than EUR 100 billion over the past 30 years.

Greatest challenge of the 21st century

At Ramboll, we consider water as one of the greatest engineering challenges of the 21st century.

Every day, more than 400 water specialists work on creating sustainable solutions for the benefit of the communities in which we operate. You can meet some of them in the video and take a look at our project references, which cover the entire water cycle - from Roskilde to Riyadh.

Cities offer challenges and opportunities

Our cities are particularly vulnerable. The combination of increased extreme rainfalls, flooding and growing urban populations puts great strains on our infrastructure and water resources. These cities, however, also represent unique opportunities for solving the global water challenge. Intelligent urban planning, combined with the modernisation of urban water infrastructures and contingency plans, ensure the availability of good-quality water. The diversion of water to the right places during extreme rain storms means that citizens are able to live comfortably with water in and around the cities.

We already have a lot of solutions at hand, but this challenge calls for the continuous rethinking and development of skills and technology in order to identify consequences and develop the right solutions. You can read three recommendations below.

Recommendation 1: Handling storm water right from everyone's perspective

”Today, the planning of dense cities gives city planners something to think about, as there is a demand for keeping up sustainable standards throughout the entire infrastructure. When it comes to the handling of storm water the task gets particularly tricky, because sustainable storm water solutions often require a great deal of space - and available space is decreasing in the dense city. By establishing a good strategy and having discussions about how to use available space at an early stage, the interests of multiple parties can be met. It is possible to create sustainable solutions that are prepared for the effects of climate change. But it takes a holistic approach and expert knowledge within storm water technique, risk analysis and landscaping in combination with good information systems to get acceptance from everybody concerned.”

- Viveka Lidström, storm water specialist.

Recommendation 2: Climate adaptation solutions must serve several aims

"There is no doubting the fact that the effects of climate change will become increasingly evident in future. You don't know exactly where and in which form they will appear. This is why it's a shame to make an investment only directed at climate adaptation. Ramboll's motto is that we carry out climate adaptation plans which have a secondary purpose too. Climate adaptation plans can, for instance, contribute to making an area more desirable to live in by creating improved playing areas, solving traffic issues or creating increasing natural biodiversity."

- Christian Nyerup Nielsen, climate adaptation specialist.

Recommendation 3: Preparing for another rainy day

"With sufficient preparedness from regions, municipalities and utility companies, it's possible to mitigate the damage caused by very large amounts of water. In future, we have to be prepared for the fact that there will be so much rain that backflow from sewers will flood basements, roads and entire areas with  waste water. As well as the closure of public institutions, hospital evacuations, breakdowns in public transport and the closing of roads, consequential effects can also include rodent problems and the danger of infections from bacteria-infected waste water. This is why it's important to have a strategy for minimising the consequences of extreme weather, and contingency plans establishing how to deal with flooding when it occurs."

- Annette Raben, drinking water and emergency plan specialist.


Read more - European and International directives

European Environment Agency

What is adaptation to climate change? European Commission Climate Action

A new EU Floods Directive

OECD - the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Read more about Ramboll's work in water management

Ramboll Group A/S

Ramboll Group A/S
Hannemanns Allé 53
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
Tel: +45 5161 1000
Fax +45 5161 1001


Danish CVR numbers

Danish CVR numbers

Ramboll Group

Rambøll Danmark

Ramboll Energy

Rambøll Management Consulting

Other sites

Other sites