21 Jun 2018
21 Jun 2018
WATER TALK3: Reducing urban water risks in a changing climate

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Event Date: 21/06/2018 - 21/06/2018

Wetlands International and the Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the EU will hold a water talk in Brussels to discuss water crisis and risks in cities. The event seeks to examine the key issues and experiences in promoting inclusive and climate resilient developments in the face of rising water risks. It will explore the role of multi-stakeholder engagement and innovative, inter-sectoral partnerships in designing and implementing solutions, helping to identify policy-relevant insights. aiming at highlighting innovative solutions to manage and reduce water risks in cities.


Water crisis are one of the top 5 risks globally and there is a growing focus on how to manage and mitigate these risks in the context of urban planning and development. In particular, rapid urbanisation and the development of housing, industry and transport infrastructure can affect valuable ecosystems and their capacities to regulate water flows, stabilize coastlines and reduce the impacts of storms. It is increasingly realized that new approaches, including nature-based solutions, are needed to make sure that these investments are sustainable and climate-proof.


21 June 2018 at 11am


Permanent Representation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the EU, Avenue de Cortenbergh, 4-10 Brussels


11.00 – 11.30           Registration and welcoming coffee/light lunch

11.30 – 11.35           Opening (NL Perm Rep)

11.35 – 11.40           Setting the scene – Moderator Cy Griffin European Programme Manager – Wetlands International EU

11.40 – 11.50          The Dutch living with water – Willem-Jan Goossen, Senior Adviser on Climate Adaptation and Water – Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

11.50 – 12.00         Urban flood risk reduction experiences in Latin America and Asia, Sander Carpaij, Urban Resilience Coordinator – Wetlands International

12.00 – 12.10          Flood-risk informed policies for Europe, Laura Schmidt Policy Officer, DG ECHO A3 Disaster Risk Reduction

12.10 – 12.20          Water in EU development policies towards SDG6, Claudio Bacigalupi, Head Water Sector Unit C2 – DG DEVCO

12.20 – 12.50          Exchange of views with the audience

12.50 – 13.00          Wrap up by the moderator


The climate crisis is a water crisis. Nine out of every ten disasters are water-related, causing 1.700 billion dollars’ worth of damage worldwide between 1995 and 2015 (UN). While the world is becoming more urbanized, cities are feeling the stress of increased populations, climate change impacts and environmental degradation, all contributing to water-related disaster risks.

Business as Usual urbanization means turning natural soil-types into concrete and landfilling wetlands, such as riverbeds, floodplains and mangroves. While reducing water storage capacity, concrete surfaces cause increased rain run-off and river flow, this type of unsustainable development also destroys the natural infrastructure functions of these wetlands that actually protect cities. This is a recipe for disaster, happening in cities across the globe.

Safeguarding and restoring wetlands contributes to reducing water related risks and building resilience to climate change. In an urban context this means combining ecosystem restoration with smart engineering solutions in the wider landscape.

The time is now for mayors to stand up for wetlands and mobilise stakeholders to integrate these natural buffers into the new model for urban development; as a natural part of water infrastructure. It is fundamental to consider the role of wetlands when planning urban protection from extreme events (such as floods, but also fires and landslides) which are expected to increase under climate change scenarios. This will help cities to become less exposed and less vulnerable to impacts from climate change and reduce disaster risks. Furthermore, integrated flood risk solutions incorporating wetlands are adaptive, often cost-effective and provide multiple benefits to society e.g. recreation, increased property value and other economic benefits. They can be combined with grey solutions (hybrid-engineering) when different multi-sectoral expertise and community perspectives are brought to the table in the early stages of planning.

This year’s World Wetlands Day (2 February) focused on wetlands for a sustainable urban future. Our water talk is to be seen as a follow up of that celebration and the discussion will serve to inform policy and decisions makers of the importance of wetlands as natural buffers to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthening urban resilience. A sustainable management of water resources is critical for urban development. Sharing successful wetlands/water management policies, strategies and projects at EU level and in development cooperation projects would be an invite to invest on wetlands for a resilient and sustainable urban future. The key messages of the event will serve to input the upcoming discussion on the next multiannual financial framework, the evaluation of the EU Adaptation strategy and the upcoming Open Forum on disaster Risk Reduction in Italy



Mayors, urban planners and other decision-makers need to recognise that development and spatial plans can sustainably address climate risks if they adopt an interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach from a landscape perspective. This approach helps them to:

  • Identify and address the root causes of risk (environmental degradation, building in risk zones, climate change impacts)
  • An understanding of how risk is expressed at spatial scales (within a river basin or at a coastline)
  • The needs and perspectives of all actors involved, including local communities
  • The adverse consequences of unsustainable practices (creating new risks)
  • Key role of wetlands to buffer extreme water related events in an urban context
  • Recognition of the urban benefits of wetlands for human wellbeing additional to reducing flood risk incl. recreation, increased property value, biodiversity related tourism
  • Possibilities for designing and implementing improved ecosystem management solutions as part of the development programme, which can be combined with grey infrastructure solutions
  • Finally, it is key to recognise and support the role of civil society to help drive inclusive and ecosystem smart solutions for sustainable urban development.


Event: Reducing urban water risks in a changing climate


Not in Brussels?

Watch our event live here