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Resilient European Cities: Nature-based Solutions for Clean Water

Resilient European Cities: Nature-based Solutions for Clean Water

Diffuse  pollution  is  one  of  the  key  reasons  European  water  bodies  are  failing to meet environmental objectives as specified in the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Outbreaks  of  toxic  green  algae  affect  rivers,  lakes  and  coastal  waters creating so-called "dead zones" where no aquatic life can thrive. Such outbreaks are by-products of dangerously increasing nutrient levels in water. Nutrient and soil losses have been recognised as challenges for decades across Europe  and  have  been  a  key  driver  for freshwater  biodiversity  losses.  With  climate change, these challenges are likely to get worse: higher temperatures, lower  river  flows  and  more  frequent  and  more  violent  flooding  events.  Other human-induced changes (such as dams and weirs) have modified the course of rivers and affected their natural flows.

This report examines how European cities can turn to nature-based solutions (NbS) to protect the water resources on which they depend, contributing to improving environmental quality in upstream watersheds. Specific objectives include:

  • Identifying  European  cities  that  are  particularly  exposed  to  diffuse  pollution  due  to  changes  in  land  use  and  poor  land  management  practices;
  • Assessing the potential for a selected range of nature-based solutions to  mitigate  diffuse  pollution  challenges  and  generate  benefits  for  people and nature, when deployed at scale;
  • Helping   water   sector   stakeholders,   policymakers,   funders   and   financiers to identify practical ways to prioritise and deploy investments in nature-based solutions for water security (NbS-WS) in Europe.  

Ecologic Institute and its partner EMVIS Consultant Engineers have supported The Nature conservancy (TNC) in the preparation of this report, in particular by identifying European cities relevant for analysis and supporting the development of the methodology to assess the effectiveness and costs of NbS-WS implementation.


Citation

Trémolet S. & Karres N. (2020). Resilient European Cities: Nature-based Solutions for Clean Water. The Nature Conservancy. London, United Kingdom.

Language
English
Author(s)
Sophie Trémolet (TNC)
Nathan Karres (TNC)
Credits

Research support was provided by a team of researchers including:

The report benefited from reviews and comments contributed by Daniel Shemie, Andras Krolopp, Rob McDonald and Kerstin Pfliegner (TNC), Manuel Lago and Ulf Stein (Ecologic Institute), Barbara Anton (ICLEI), Kathleen Dominique (OECD) and Josefina Maestu (Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge).

Funding
Year
2021
Dimension
118 pp.
Project ID
3579
Table of Contents

ACRONYMS
VIEWS FROM EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL STAKEHOLDERS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1. Objectives and scope of this report
1.2. Methodology and key findings
1.3. Report structure
2. INVESTING IN NATURE TO PROTECT WATER SOURCES AND "BUILD BACK BETTER"
2.1. Europe's water security is fragile
2.2. Infrastructure spending needs for resilient water services are significant
2.3. Nature-based Solutions could boost resilience
2.4. The time has come to invest in resilient water supplies
3. SURFACE WATERS: A CRITICAL RESOURCE FOR EUROPEAN CITIES
3.1. From where do European cities source their water?
3.2. Resilient water supplies depend on healthy watersheds
3.3. Why are nutrient pollution and sediment a threat to freshwater ecosystems?
3.4. How significant are nutrient pollution and soil loss in Europe overall?
4. SURFACE WATER CHALLENGES FOR SELECTED CITIES
4.1 Selected cities get water from numerous and often remote sources
4.2. Built infrastructure has been effective at securing adequate water quantity
4.3. But their source catchments face significant land use pressures
4.4. Soil loss and nutrient pollution suggest significant impact of agricultural activities
5. HARNESSING NATURE TO PROTECT EUROPEAN SURFACE WATER SOURCES
5.1. Which nature-based solutions can help protect surface water sources?
5.2 Potential impact of NbS on selected cities’ water sources
5.3. Potential costs of implementing NbS for source water protection
5.4 Potential cost savings and benefits from NbS for source water protection
6. KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1. Summary of key findings
6.2. Recommendations: accelerating NbS adoption to tackle diffuse pollution
ANNEX A. CASE STUDIES
Manchester, UK
Madrid, Spain
ANNEX B. DETAILED METHODOLOGY
B.1. Selecting cities and identifying relevant water sources
B.2. Characterising catchment threats in terms of water depletion and pollution
B.3. Estimating NbS potential for addressing diffuse pollution at catchment level
ANNEX C. POTENTIAL OF NBS TO PROTECT WATER SOURCES FOR SELECTED EUROPEAN CITIES
ANNEX D. REFERENCES

Keywords
surface water quality, groundwater quality, floods, water scarcity, nature based solutions, agricultural practices, Manchester, United Kingdom, Madrid, Spain, Europe, case study