Sweden is expected to experience increased precipitation in the future as a result of climate change, and sudden cloudbursts of heavy rain may become more common. Urban areas are vulnerable to such cloudbursts due to the hard asphalted surfaces and built-up areas, which prevent the water from draining into the ground. In August 2014, Malmö experienced a cloudburst event that caused flooding in several places, as the drainage network was unable to cope with the large amounts of water. Many cellars and basements were flooded, homes experienced power cuts, vehicles became stuck in high water and trains were cancelled.
Managing sudden cloudbursts in Malmö
Following the cloudburst, the City of Malmö and the regional organisation for water and sanitation, VA SYD, began work on a cloudburst plan. Around 30 per cent of the ground in the municipal area in owned by the City of Malmö, which meant that it was only on this ground that they were able to implement measures. They established that there was a need to implement solutions for surface runoff on ground that did not belong to the City of Malmö.
The privately owned surfaces in Malmö are owned by customers of VA SYD. It was therefore decided that the best complement to the cloudburst plan would be to approach VA SYD’s customers in order to reduce the burden on the pipeline network. A project group was appointed following a political decision made by VA SYD’s board of owners in Malmö, and this resulted in the development of the “Tillsammans gör vi plats för vattnet” initiative, featuring activities aimed at different target groups.
Initiative to manage surface runoff
The project began in autumn 2017 and is both owned and run by VA SYD, which is one of Sweden’s biggest organisations for water and drainage. It is a politically governed municipal association, comprising five municipalities in Skåne, of which two participate in this project. To begin with, the initiative was aimed at Malmö, but it was expanded to also include Lund in 2020.
The objective is to change the approach to water management in towns, thereby reducing the risk of flooding and creating the conditions for the smarter utilisation of water. This partly involves inspiring a change in attitudes, and partly getting the public to help by ‘making room for water’ in their properties.
Taking care of rainwater at a local level reduces the burden on the network of drainage pipes, which in turn helps to prevent flooding in the event of sudden heavy rainfall. If the rainwater is stored in water butts, this can also be used for the watering of gardens in dry weather. VA SYD offers different types of property owners in Malmö and Lund SEK 2,500 for every downpipe that is shortened for this purpose.
Activities and communication
As part of its work, VA SYD organises local meetings, exhibitions at trade fairs, targeted mailouts and campaigns aimed at the owners of detached homes. It makes use of various channels, such as its website, Instagram, Facebook and advertising in order to spread the message. The website features films and descriptions of how downpipes can be shortened, as well as a range of other measures that can easily and independently be performed.
The project offers personal visits to housing associations, property companies and other organisations in order to provide advice, inspiration and support with regard to whichever measures can be implemented in the property in question. This makes use of active contact seeking as a communication strategy. The website also provides tips for different measures that organisations could take. It also strives to create collaboration that could result in the implementation of measures for surface runoff management.
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.