Sustainable stormwater management: addressing the challenges

Due to the climate change, Baltic Sea Region is facing more frequent and heavier rainfalls, heavily affecting densely built and inhabited urban areas. Cities need to deal with the common challenge of stormwater flooding that may lead to environmental degradation, infrastructure damage or risks to human safety. Such challenge requires a holistic, comprehensive and knowledge-based approach to stormwater management in the whole region.

Part of the work in BSR WATER – Platform on Integrated Water Cooperation is devoted to sustainable stormwater management. This work is coordinated by the platform partner City of Riga, previously leading the project iWater focusing on integrated stormwater management. Working on this topic in BSR WATER, Riga conducted a comprehensive survey and structured interviews to better understand the baseline and other pre-conditions for setting up a sustainable stormwater management in the region. Collected information is now used to prepare a stormwater-related legal review and assess the progress of cities regarding stormwater management improvements, needs and future development prospects. Further, findings and comments have been streamed to HELCOM to influence the revision of the Recommendation 23/5 Reduction of discharges from urban areas by the proper management of storm water systems.

Stormwater legal review, approaches and tools

When discussing sustainable stormwater management approaches and tools, the interviewed cities highlighted the importance of this topic and admitted the need to implement integrated stormwater management and sustainable stormwater planning in the near future. Although the awareness of these concepts is high, adoption of approaches, tools or solutions in majority of cities is rather slow – mainly due to lack of common understanding and mutual collaboration among different municipal structures responsible for stormwater issues, insufficient or inappropriate financing schemes for stormwater management, lack of local stormwater experts. New policies, binding targets and incentives are needed for transition to sustainable stormwater management, supporting the implementation of innovations, contributing to urban ecosystem services and increasing cities’ resilience to the climate change.

Read more about the findings from Riga

Contribution to HELCOM work on regional recommendations

The challenge of urban storm waters being a pathway for harmful substances to the marine environment is not new: already back in 2002 HELCOM adopted Recommendation 23/5 Reduction of discharges from urban areas by the proper management of storm water systems. Later, considering newly emerging environmental challenges, HELCOM community identified urban storm water as one of the key sources for releases of microlitter to the aquatic environment and the need to address climate-related aspects of storm water management increasing regional climate change resilience.

Contributing to the revision of the Recommendation in the frame of BSR WATER, City of Riga and the City of Helsinki jointly prepared proposals on how to address the climate change related aspects in stormwater management. The proposals were integrated into the new draft of the revised Recommendation, presented and considered first in October 2019 in Brussels, then forwarded for further elaboration. The discussions on the document continue in 2020.

Learn more about the revision process from HELCOM

Discussion with experts

BSR WATER contribution into the regional dialogue on sustainable stormwater management will be highlighted further at two upcoming events:

  • BSR WATER Project Meeting in Helsinki, 10–11 March 2020.
    The first day is open for relevant stakeholders to join. The program will provide an informational stormwater-related background and will open up two discussions – on stormwater management and on regional cooperation in the water sector.
  • Baltic Sea Day Forum in Saint Petersburg, 19–20 March 2020.
    BSR WATER platform will present its stormwater work at the seminar on increasing resilience to the climate change.
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