Challenges and solutions for urban water resilience: insights from the IFAT Blue Stage Panel

The session on urban water resilience organized by GWP was well attended © GWP.

On May 15, German Water Partnership e.V. (GWP) organized a panel on the topic of “Urban Water Resilience” at the Blue Stage as part of the IFAT Munich 2024 supporting program. Experts from various fields discussed the biggest challenges and shared their experiences and solutions.

Extreme weather events in urban areas

One of the biggest challenges in urban areas is dealing with extreme weather events, ranging from droughts to floods. Dr. Franziska Meinzinger, Head of Infrastructure Development at Hamburger Wasserwerke GmbH, emphasized that there is often either too much or too little water, which can lead to significant problems.

Vera Massie, Project Manager – Water Management: Competence Centre Climate and Environment at the German-South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry NPC, added that prevention is very complex and involves all- from the local population to the environment.

Andreas Bichler, CEO of DEHOUST GmbH, emphasized the importance of education and information. It is crucial to provide the population with tangible knowledge on how to deal with extreme weather events. Dr. Detlef Klein, Senior Portfolio Manager at KfW’s North Africa department, explained that the solutions are often interlinked. The growth of cities and industry, agriculture and the increasing demand for energy mean that water is no longer a cheap commodity.

Boris Greifeneder (GWP) andDr. Franziska Meinzinger (Hamburg Wasser) exchange ideas on urban water resilience.

Michael Natschke, Business Development Director at Xylem Water Solutions Deutschland GmbH, pointed out that preparation for such events must be viewed holistically. It is not enough to simply react to the events; the entire cycle must be included in the adaptation strategies.

Experiences from Germany

Germany has already had its first experiences with extreme weather events. Bichler recalled that the first drought in 1995 led to an increase in requests for rainwater management systems. Water reuse has been an issue for some time and rainwater harvesting has been around for about 20 years. Since then, Germany has been well on the way to improve the understanding of sustainable water use. Natschke explained that Xylem supports communities during flooding in the immediate response phase with containerized solutions that pump water away at dams to prevent overflows.

Dr. Franziska Meinzinger from HAMBURG WASSER explained that Hamburg not only provides drinking water and disposes of wastewater, but is also responsible for the resilience of communities. Drought and heat management as well as the monitoring of water resources are essential. Public areas are used multifunctionally; for example, parks can serve as retention basins for rainwater. This results in the so-called “sponge cities”, which retain the water and return it to the cycle after a delay.

Funding options

Financial support plays a key role in the implementation of resilience strategies. In this regard, Klein presented KfW Development Bank’s financing options and expertise in the water and urban development sector. This includes international export and project financing as well as funding for private companies in developing countries.

  • KfW IPEX-Bank: This department of the KfW Group supports international export and project financing. It offers customized financing for large infrastructure projects, including water and wastewater projects.
  • DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft: DEG finances private companies in developing countries that invest in sustainable projects. This also includes projects in the water and wastewater sector.
  • Support loans: KfW offers low-interest loans for development projects. These loans often have long terms and low interest rates to facilitate the financing of sustainable projects.
  • Grants and allowances: In addition to loans, KfW also awards grants for certain projects, especially if they offer significant social or environmental benefits.
  • Policy and results-based loans: These loans are a new financing instrument in which disbursement is linked to the achievement of certain political or development-related goals.
The topic of urban water resilience was met with great interest from the audience .© GWP.

KfW’s financing conditions are increasingly influenced by environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. Projects must prove that they meet these criteria in order to be eligible for funding.

International experiences and mutual learning

Massie underlined that the resilience of cities always depends on the local context. City partnerships in the areas of drinking water and wastewater, such as the one between Buffalo City and Oldenburg, enable knowledge transfer. Climate change leads to extreme events such as droughts and

The panel of the Blue Stage session on urban water resilience: Boris Greifeneder (GWP), Dr. Franziska Meinzinger (HAMBURG WASSER), Vera Massie (German-South African Chamber of Industry and Commerce), Andreas Bichler (Dehoust), Dr. Detlef Klein (KfW) and Michael Natschke (Xylem). © GWP.

Floods, which can cause considerable damage in a short period of time. In South Africa, the focus lies on combating droughts, although floods can be just as dangerous. In Germany, the focus is primarily on floods, but droughts are also an increasing challenge in the south of the country.

Ausblick

The discussion makes it clear that technologies and nature-based solutions must go hand in hand with education and sensitization for society. A holistic approach in which all stakeholders and aspects are taken into account is key.

The Urban Water Resilience working group currently being established at GWP is dedicated to finding solutions and the related economic opportunities for German companies and institutions abroad and at the same time to strengthening urban water resilience at domestic and international level by bringing together science, services and technology. Join us and actively contribute to strengthening water resilience in cities worldwide with your company or institution! Contact: Lucie König.