Municipal collaboration on water problems

  • Case studie
  • Urban planning
  • Biodiversity
  • Flooding
  • Natural environment

Three municipalities in southern Sweden have undertaken one of the country’s first water and landscape protection projects in order to counteract eutrophication, promote biodiversity and recreation and decrease the risk of flooding. The municipalities have worked together on a mutual solution along the Höje River, a watercourse shared between them.

The Höje River Project has been a collaboration between the municipalities Lund, Lomma and Staffanstorp, which lie within the watercourse's drainage basin. Throughout the entire projects, over 80 wetlands have been created with a combined area of almost 110 ha. Protection zones, footpaths and surface runoff reservoirs have also been built.

Våtmark vid Esarp
Wetland at Esarp has been built alongside Höje River. A partial flow of the river led into the wetland through a culvert. The wetland has been created by excavation and damming. Foto Jonas Johansson

Major impact on human activity

Agriculture strongly dominates the south-western part of Skåne and there has been a drastic impact on the original natural environment. There is always some leaching of nutrients from intensively cultivated land into adjacent watercourses. Increased temperatures as a result of climate change may also lead to increased leaching as milder winters result in the ground being less frozen and the precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. Agricultural land releases rainwater faster than uncultivated land, which can, when combined with heavy precipitation cause flooding that affects human activities.

Control of measures put in place along the river cannot be confined within the individual municipalities' boundaries as these also have an impact on other municipalities downstream. Dealing with problems along the path of the river demands additional measures and a holistic view on the part of all those involved.

The importance of a holistic view, economic efficiency and voluntary participation

Collaboration as part of the Höje River Project began in 1991 in order to deal with water protection within the river's entire drainage basin. Working together was an obvious choice for the municipalities involved as they had past experience from collaborating and it was also beneficial from an economic perspective. A holistic view and sharing of costs has made surveillance of water quality easier and enabled the municipalities to initiate tangible measures and invest in major projects.

Rousing the interest of private landowners has also been an important aspect of the project. There is a great deal of valuable arable land in the area, which has made it difficult to interest landowners in creating uncultivated zones. In order to attract as many notifications of interest as possible, information leaflets were sent out to private landowners.  In cases where the municipality's investigations indicated a need for measures to be put in place in a certain area, there was an attempt to create a dialogue with the affected landowners so as to take everyone's interests into consideration.

Distributed financing

The entire Höje River Project was estimated to cost approximately SEK 46 million. The project was financed by both the municipalities concerned and various central government funds such as the Local Investment Programme (LIP), the Local Environmental Protection Investment (NIP) and the Local Water Protection Project (LOVA).

More examples of climate adaptation

This is one of many examples of climate adaptation. There are more in the collection of ideas being built up by the Swedish National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). The collection of examples has the aim of sharing experiences and providing ideas to everyone who works with climate adaptation. Examples describe concrete measures and challenges in several subject areas. They show how different actors have worked to adapt their activities to the climate changes that are already being noticed today and those that we cannot prevent in the future.