Risk assessment of estuaries under climate change: Lessons from Western Europe


Climate change with rising sea levels and possible changes in surge levels and wave climate will have a large impact on how we protect our coastal areas and cities. Here the focus is on estuarine locations not only affected by tide and surge propagation, but also potentially influenced by freshwater discharge. Mitigation measures might be diverse ranging from pure hard ‘engineering’ solutions all the way to significant realignment. The variation in the type/origin and extent of the flood sources greatly influences subsequent risk management measures. At the same time, society is increasingly demanding that we take a holistic view on risk management, embracing and balancing safety, ecological and socio-economic aspects. This requires that all these diverse factors need to be considered together and integrated. In this context, the Source–Pathway–Receptor (SPR) approach offers a powerful holistic tool to investigate changing risk connected to extreme events. The traditional SPR approach with a consecutive treatment of the flood, pathway and receptor is well understood and is widely used in coastal flood risk analysis. Here an enhanced 2D conceptual version of the SPR method is used to better describe the system and to allow flexibility in considering multiple scales, flood sources and pathways. The new approach is demonstrated by three estuarine case studies in western Europe: the Gironde estuary, France; the Dendermonde region in the Scheldt estuary, Belgium; and HafenCity (Hamburg) in the Elbe estuary, Germany. They differ considerably in the surface area considered, in the type of flood sources, and hence also in the SPR configuration. After a brief introduction of the typical characteristics of the three study sites including some lessons learned from past flood protection measures, the differences in application and results of the SPR approach are discussed. Emphasis is on the specific aspects for each study site, but embedded in a generic SPR framework. The resulting generic lessons learned about the flood sources and how this shapes subsequent analysis are transferable to numerous important estuaries worldwide.
QR Code: Link to publication