IMproving PRedictions and management of hydrological EXtremes (IMPREX)

Date de publication : 1 septembre 2019 | langue de rapport : EN

Water is a vital natural resource and, as such, an integral part of our environment and climate system. Excessive water exposure during flood conditions and water scarcity during droughts pose fundamental risks to life and weaken socio-economic resilience. Present day water management in many sectors has to be able to cope with extreme hydrological conditions.

In addition, the impacts of global warming on water resources have become a matter of grave concern to water resource managers and decision-makers. Water is the primary medium through which the effects of climate change on people’s lives are directly felt. We are experiencing large-scale and gradual changes in climate systems such as rising sea levels or the gradual depletion of hydrological buffers and weather extremes that lead to increasing flood and drought risks. The limited predictability of these extremes at sufficiently long lead times results in considerable social vulnerability, particularly in light of the imminent increase in frequency and severity of extreme events in the future.

Recognising these risks, the European Union (EU) has considerably improved and adapted its water policy instruments over the past few decades. Clear examples are the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), the Floods Directive (FD) and the EU Water Initiative (EUWI), as well as the policy documents supporting the European Commission’s communication on water scarcity and droughts. In addition, in research and innovation budgets, considerable funding has been earmarked for the generation of science-based knowledge and climate services. The EU Horizon 2020 funded research project IMPREX (IMproving PRedictions and management of hydrological Extremes) provides innovative approaches, tools and practical case studies to help improve our ability to anticipate and respond to future hydrological extreme events. IMPREX demonstrates the successful uptake of innovation in practice, and provides recommendations on decision-making and integration into EU policy frameworks.

Hydrology and water resources systems are essential for multiple sectors, such as water transport and hydropower, agriculture, urban water supply and other economic fields. Numerous actors working in these fields face the consequences of climate variability and hydrological extremes daily. Improved climate services are of the utmost importance if hydrometeorological phenomena are to be managed effectively. Operational tasks can benefit from improved forecasting and decision support systems that effectively incorporate complex events where many drivers are at play at the same time. Improved climate services are indispensable in order to be able to tailor information on long-term climate change to operational activities such as infrastructure planning in the water sector.

The principle “learn from today to anticipate tomorrow” was one of the true guiding principles behind IMPREX activities. In close cooperation with a wide range of users within the water sector, IMPREX developed approaches and tools that are used today to prepare for hydrological extremes and climate variability. Current state-of-the art forecasting systems and management procedures were analysed and improved. The project took up the challenge of harmonizing the – at times conflicting – requirements for everyday operations and long-term planning, providing evidence-based solutions for improved management support. IMPREX developed models, tools and approaches that address operational hydrometeorological forecasting and climate outlook systems, and operational system management by practitioners.