01. 08. 2017


BY Rita Lourinho Alves, Águas de Portugal

Water management is expected to play an important role in climate change adaptation. Indeed, water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructures are vulnerable to critical stresses from climate change, including sea level rise, higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and potentially more intense storms.

Also, water resources are directly impacted by climate change, and the management of these resources affects the vulnerability of ecosystems, socio-economic activities and human health.

Being fully aware of this, Águas de Portugal (AdP) decided to incorporate in our Sustainable Strategy the topic of adaptation to climate change.  The AdP Group Sustainable Strategy incorporates six major principles and 20 commitments covering topics such as water and biodiversity conservation, adaptation to climate change, development of a responsible local economy, enhancement of the relationship with collaborators and an increasing approach to the community, among others. On the basis of this Sustainable Strategy is the concept of symbiosis – with the environment, with employees, with shareholders and customers and the community – which stems from the close interdependence relationship that the activities undertaken by the Group companies maintain with the quality of life and the environment, being upstream and downstream of all other economic activities.

The effects of climate change on urban water will impact other urban sectors; and, climate change effects on other sectors will, in many cases, impact the urban water systems. So, water is a cross-cutting topic in urban areas and it carries many questions regarding how climate change will challenge cities. In urban cities, multiple service sectors and stakeholders are involved and dealing with specific systems such as water supply, wastewater, stormwater, waste, energy, transportation and health. The RESCCUE project responds to this specific challenge by having a multisectorial approach. Therefore, the interdependencies between different urban services and potentially infrastructure affected by a climate extreme event are established and analyzed in the RESCCUE project. Also, the cascading effects of a climate extreme event are analyzed.

By focusing on the water sector and the interactions of urban water service with other urban services, we can analyze, for example, how flooding may affect the power supply system, which in turn affects wastewater and storm water pumping stations on the one hand, and, on the other hand, water supply system. Another example, is extreme rainfall causing solid waste containers to overturn on public roads which can lead to traffic accidents, injuries and increase the contaminants’ load of stormwater, wastewater or CSOs (combined sewer overflows), in combined sewer systems, with impacts in the receiving water bodies. Also, extreme rainfall events may increase CSOs to prevent wash-out of the WWTP with a deleterious effect during and after the event.

Based on what is described above, a comprehensive and effective Resilience Action Plan (RAP) will be developed for each city that incorporates the interdependencies between urban services and with the commitment of all concerned decision makers.

The technical contribution of Águas de Portugal is on the topic of urban water services and is related to the hazard, vulnerability and risk assessments, the definition of urban resilience strategies, and finally with the necessary contributions to the development of Lisbon RAP.