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Climate change impact on hydrological extremes along rivers and urban drainage systems

More:  Institutes 
Dutch title: Impact van klimaatsverandering op hydrologische extremen langs rivieren en in rioleringen
Parent project: Science for a Sustainable Development, more
Reference no: SD/CP/O3A
Period: December 2005 till December 2007
Status: Completed

Institutes (2)  Top 
  • KU Leuven; Departement Burgerlijke Bouwkunde; Afdeling Hydraulica, more, co-ordinator
  • Koninklijk Meteorologisch Instituut; Meteorologisch onderzoek en ontwikkeling, more, partner

Phase 1


The climate change impact on the risk of hydrological extremes along rivers and urban drainage systems will be studied for the local hydro-climatologic conditions in Belgium. For rivers, both floods and low flows will be considered, while for urban drainage systems only flood extremes are of relevance. The proposed research will take five main steps:

  1. Study of climate change scenarios. This step includes a detailed review of climate change scenarios relevant for the hydrology in Belgium, the downscaling of recent climate model simulations, and the selection of potential climate change scenarios for further analysis.

  2. Statistical analysis of trends and cycles in long-term series of historical rainfall, evapo(transpi)ration and river flow, and verification of the consistency of the climate change scenarios selected in (i) with the present and past climate.

  3. Impact modelling towards flood risk and low flow risk along rivers, using hydrological and coupled hydrological – hydrodynamic river models for selected river subbasins, and consistency check with the statistical trend analysis on the river flow series for the present and past climate, taking into account the trend contribution from land use changes and trends in water management (floodplain restoration and river valley rewetting).

  4. Impact modelling towards flood risk along urban drainage systems, considering the impact on sewer flood frequencies and magnitudes, combined sewer overflow frequencies and receiving river impact for selected sewer systems.

  5. Analysis of the effects of the changes in flood and drought risks on environment and economy. In collaboration with the project ADAPT, also the wider implications to the society, water managers and policy makers will be investigated.


The project will apply in (i) new analyses for spatial and temporal downscaling of the Global Circulation Model results to the scale required for hydrological investigations. These combine statistical methods (mainly used in hydrology such as scaling laws and areal reduction factors) with regional climate model results. The latter results are largely used in climatology, but do not allow the intrinsic climatic variability to be described at the scale of hydrological processes, neither the influence on the extremes. Also in (ii), the separate fields of statistical hydro-climatology and hydrology and physical climate modeling will be brought together to verify the climate model derived scenarios with the present and past climate. This will be done by statistical hypothesis testing on the basis of historical series of rainfall, evapo(transpi)ration and river flow discharges. In tasks (iii) and (iv) the climate change scenarios therefore also will be processed towards changes in terms of Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) relationships for rainfall and evapo(transpi)ration and Discharge-Duration-Frequency (QDF) relationships for the impact to river and sewer flow. The uncertainty on both the climate scenarios and the impact predictions will be taken into account through ensemble modelling and probabilistic simulations.

The Meuse and Scheldt river basins will act as river case studies, modelled at the large basin scale as well as the more detailed smaller scale of subbasins. The urban drainage impact modelling will be carried out for 2 urban drainage systems in the country. All these cases will be selected based on the availability of existing hydrological and hydrodynamic tools, which are applied in the current water management practice.
The project will be enriched by investigations in (v) on the implications that the projected flood and drought risks would have on the economy (flood damage), and the environment (river water quality).

Interaction between the different partners

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In addition to the interaction between the project

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