Project context

As mentioned in the Horizon 2020 strategy (H2020 CS5), “the world market for drinking and waste water reached €250 billion in 2008, with corresponding investments of more than €33 billion per annum. The market for technologies to adapt to climate change – like protecting from floods and droughts – is rapidly growing, considering that the cost of repairing damages is estimated to be about 6 times higher than the cost of adaptation. Moreover there is significant potential to boost the competitiveness and growth of the European water sector, which includes 9,000 active SMEs and provides 60, 000 direct jobs in water utilities alone. A 1% increase of the rate of growth of the water industry in Europe may mean between 10 000 and 20 000 new jobs, while synergies with other sectors may generate even larger returns (some estimates indicate that the application of ICT in water management and monitoring could produce growth of 30% per year).”

The H2020 framework has planned to address innovative tools and methodologies, “such as advanced ICT and earth observation technologies, for risk assessment, mitigation and adaptation strategies”. It also addresses eco-innovative, integrated and cross-sectoral solutions for water management such as: “wastewater and drinking water treatment technologies; water reuse systems; closed water cycles in industry; enhanced desalination technologies; improved materials; process, behaviour and technologies to enhance water and energy use efficiency; and appropriate management systems and strategies that incorporate water, wastewater, storm water and energy systems and duly consider changes in its availability due to climate change or other stressors.”

HydroEurope project meets the objectives set for the Europe 2020 Strategy by addressing many aspects of all the identified societal challenges:

Water - and its management - is a component that is explicit or implicit of each identified theme. The concepts developed within the WaterEurope project address explicitly those aspects.

Floods are natural phenomena that on the one hand are essential for the survival and health of the ecosystem while on the other hand can critically and permanently affect citizens, businesses and agriculture. According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’ (CRED), flooding is one of the most important natural hazards in Europe in terms of economic loss. In 2012, of the 905 natural catastrophes worldwide 36% were hydrological (floods), affecting millions of people’s well-being and livelihood, especially in developing countries where poverty and food insecurity issues further aggravate the situation. According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), floods are the single most widespread and increasing disaster risk to urban settlements of all sizes. In addition, urban flood risks are expected to increase significantly in the future as a result of climate change and demographic growth: the former is likely to increase the magnitude and frequency of extreme storm events, while the latter will increase exposure and vulnerability of humans as well as urban settlements.

Against this serious backdrop, nowadays European and worldwide urban environments are confronted with increasingly complex issues in terms of flood risk management and resilience. Specialists and experts in the field of water resources management and disaster risk response as well as urban planners, decision makers and industrial professionals are called upon the important task to reconsider traditional methodologies in favour of innovative and sustainable approaches which improve safety of exposed populations and reduce impact on natural environment. It is clear that the risk of flooding cannot be eliminated, but the reduction of vulnerability in flood-prone are can be achieved through a combination of elements organized around the concept of resilience.

Drawing from a definition proposed by the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), in the context of urban flooding "resilience is the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase this capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures”. In the near future, communities will have to adapt even more to increasing stressful environmental conditions, through disaster risk reduction and resilience building measures.

Since the year 2000, the European Commission has adopted eight Directives as legislative framework aimed at better manage water resources as well as reduce, through the right measures, the risks and impacts of floods to human well-being and the environment. Experience has shown that the most effective way is through the adoption of an integrated approach to flood management – one that recognizes both the opportunities provided by floodplains for socio-economic activities and that manages the associated risks – which is essential for the sustainable exploitation of water resources. The success of an urban planning project is thus based on adopting an across-sector approach and know-how based on:

The HydroEurope partners wish to innovate massively in the pedagogic approach and to promote a completely new approach that is based on the concept of “problem oriented project based learning” (POPBL). The experience already gathered has demonstrated that POPBL can provide a relevant approach in water domain. The introduction of a multidisciplinary course within which almost all generic competencies required for employability and sustainability can only be delivered through a complex curriculum and innovative teaching and learning as oppose to traditional teaching method. The basic principles of POPBL can be summarized as:

The implementation of the approach requests a complete adaptation of the course materials and resources currently used in most of the Msc degrees.

The objective of the HydroEurope project is to develop a unique set of pedagogic resources dedicated to the implementation of hydroinformatic solutions (numerical modelling tools) for water resources and water related hazards management at the European scale. This set of resources (course material, exercises, data sets, modelling environment integrating numerical models and communication services) is jointly elaborated by the project partners. The partners will integrate these new resources in specific training modules integrated within their master course and will intensively use an innovative project oriented pedagogic approach towards the participants. The development of the resources and their innovative use will allow promoting to young professionals the new approaches for water resources and water related hazard management. Most important, the practice gained through these training modules contributes to increase competences and professional skills of young engineers in charge water resources at the international scale.