Situated 2.4 meters below sea level, the city has been identified as the most flood sensitive area in Sweden. Stockholm Environment Institute and Uppsala University set up the visit in collaboration with the Swedish Rescue Service.

Scientists project that climate change will increase the frequency of heavy rain events, putting communities in flood-sensitive areas at risk. SEI researcher Maria Osbeck, who represented SEI at the exchange, believes that to reduce flood risk it is crucial to put the issue in the spotlight, and for the world’s flood experts to exchange experience.

“The exchange was a highly engaging and detailed sharing of experience on how to do effective water governance and disaster management. We visited several locations in Kristianstad with flood management infrastructure, including a pumping station, old and new embankments, and the biosphere reserve Vattenriket

In 2010 Brisbane in Australia was hit by severe flooding after a massive downpour. John Gallina, coordinator of the emergency authority in Brisbane, presented creative methods for engaging the public, for example the online tool Sunshine Coast Council Disaster Hub. The hub was developed after the Brisbane floods and shares essential information in preparing for and responding to disasters.

“John explained how lack of transparency and access to information were identified as the key weaknesses in how the authorities handled the Brisbane floods. He gave a strong sense of how effective such a tool can be, bringing together such things as contacts, news, mapping, and social media, all on behalf of an effective response in the face of a disaster,” Osbeck continued.

Karin Magntorn, Visitor Center Manager at Vattenriket, also emphasized the importance of sharing information, and presented the work of the biosphere reserve on proactive community-based environmental education. Every year at the reserve 150,000 visitors learn about the Helge River system and the area’s rich biodiversity; the value of the seasonal flooding of the river as part of the natural river process, and the value of ecosystem services in reducing flood risk.“

Brisbane’s disaster response hub and the biosphere reserve educational outreach highlight that both effective reactive systems and long-range proactive approaches are key elements of water governance and disaster management,” continued Osbeck.

MIRACLE is a three-year research project carried out in five countries around the Baltic Sea (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Poland) to look at the links between nutrient management and flooding.

The project will identify ways to reduce risks linked to nutrient flows and floods in a changing climate.

In Sweden, the project focuses on the Helge River. Stockholm Environment Institute together with the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), Linköping University and the University of Copenhagen will work with stakeholders in the basin over the next three years.

Experts at the meeting offered insights into how effective flood mitigation depends on combining “hard” infrastructure solutions, such as pumps and embankments, with “soft” solutions, such as improved institutional coordination on water allocation from upstream to downstream in a river basin. Another soft solution is the need for increased support for the protection and creation of wetlands to reduce flood risk. Participants also shared their common experience from Brisbane and Kristianstad of the lack of cooperation between actors upstream and downstream in the river basins.

The meeting was part of the MIRACLE research project, and supported by the CADWAGO research project. MIRACLE aims to develop innovative solutions to better manage floods in a changing climate. In Sweden, the project focuses on the Helge River, which is one of Sweden’s largest drainage systems.“In MIRACLE we look at the links between nutrient management and flooding. When it comes to flooding problems, it is important to have a broader perspective and to seek synergies”, said Osbeck.