Coastal demo site

Coast of Catalonia, ES

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The 600km long Catalan coast in north-eastern Spain has diverse geographical and biodiversity systems.

Although it is quite representative of other coastal regions and of the Mediterranean, this region is a hotspot that brings together tourism, natural and societal factors, economic activities and interests, urbanisation, agriculture, and critical infrastructure and industries, which compete for resources and make it highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.


Current climate impact trends will exacerbate existing problems regarding water supply, biodiversity loss, flooding and salination.

Contact this team | Contacta amb aquest equip | Contacta con este equipo :

  • Queralt Plana – queralt.plana[@]
  • Gabriel Borràs – gborras[@]


Flooding & salt intrusion

Biodiversity loss

Water supply

Ambitions within IMPETUS:

Use hybrid decentralised water management systems

to increase water availability and quality.

Enhance river sediment transport to the coast and the restoration of dunes and wetlands,

as well as monitoring methods, to mitigate sea-level rise and marine storms.

Assess resilience of drinking water plants

regarding increase of pathogens.

Predict trends of extreme events and related economic impacts.

to pave the way for:

Government of Catalonia to adopt the regional innovation package

as part of Work Programme on Climate Change Adaptation.

Large-scale citizen engagement and enhanced behavioural change.

Demonstrated solutions and adaptations available for knowledge transfer and replication by other coastal communities.

Test solutions:

Below sea-level multifunctional wetlands to adapt to sea-level rise

Technology Readiness Level 5-7

Constructed wetlands have been used to polish and treat urban wastewater but are rarely applied to agricultural wastewater. Nutrients, metals, pesticides and organics have been successfully removed at rates of 30-99%, based on various processes such as adsorption, precipitation, filtration, sedimentation, microbial degradation, and plant uptake.


  • Construct a multifunctional wetland, including novel active layers, in flood-risk below sea level areas used for agriculture;
  • Operate this on a pilot basis using different management strategies (wet/dry periods), using solar pumping to feed it with agricultural waste water and remove nutrients, pesticides, and organic pollutants before discharge; 
  • Evaluate the ecosystem services of this wetland: water quality improvement, coastal protection, biodiversity and climate regulation (carbon sequestration) and compare to the centralised systems currently in place. 
  • Demonstrate feasibility for decentralised systems such as near-sea on-farm small wetlands;
  • Test that the approach aligns with internationally accepted nature-based solution principles and elaborate a plan for upscaling the solution.

This work is linked with:

Sand dune restoration and monitoring to prevent coastal erosion

Technology Readiness Level 6-8

Human pressure, landscape use and how nature is valued affect beach dune systems and can result in conflicts of interests. Nature-based solutions such as dune restoration have been implemented in some systems, including the IMPETUS Catalonia coastal demo site.


  • Monitor and analyse the current Catalonia dune system;
  • Design and apply multi-scale indicators to assess the impacts of climate change (e.g. frequency and intensity of marine storms) and human impacts (e.g. tourism);
  • Test, monitor and assess restoration actions on touristic beaches regarding their resilience against marine storms, biodiversity enhancement and promotion of citizens’ behavioural change;
  • Assess cases as demonstrators of good practices that support adaptation to climate change; 
  • Test that the solution aligns with the IUCN Global Standard for nature-based solutions;
  • Propose guidelines to improve the effectiveness of other restoration actions and elaborate a plan for upscaling dune restoration in coastal Catalonia. 

This work is linked with:

Decentralised, hybrid, fit-for-use reclamation system for increasing water availability

Technology Readiness Level 5-7

Decentralised treatment systems are commonly applied using conventional or advanced technologies such as a membrane bioreactor (MBR) and nature-based solutions (NBS) such as constructed wetlands (CWS) to treat grey water before discharge or re-use. Application has been limited to installations with constant inlet flow, presenting high energy or land requirements that hinder its use.


  • Install a compact hybrid decentralised water reclamation system, combining NBS and anaerobic granular membrane treatments, in a touristic camping complex;
  • Design the system taking into account the challenges linked to seasonal occupation of the complex;
  • Assess the quality of water produced and its potential health risks if used for irrigation and cleaning purposes;
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of decentralised water reclamation and re-use: show that compact technologies reclaim water with high-quality in installations with variable inlet flow and demands; show that in these circumstances energy requirements and the footprint of the system are reduced through the combination of treatments.

This work is linked with:

Sediment delivery to coastal areas through irrigation networks

Technology Readiness Level 5-7

Techniques to by-pass sediments in some reservoirs is seen as a solution to maintaining their capacity in coastal areas. Modelling the sediment transport capacity of rivers under present conditions is a key part of this approach, which is a measure to adapt to sea-level rise.


  • Elaborate on already tested solutions, using irrigation networks to deliver river sediments to agricultural areas at or below sea-level in the most threatened coastal areas;
  • Use Computational Fluid Dynamics to model the irrigation system of a test delta estuary site in the region;
  • Validate and improve existing computational tools by using the test site to reproduce the demonstrated (in a previous project) behaviour of sediments passing through the network;
  • Make the computational tools available for use in other similar environments with the aim of proposing strategies for (potentially continuous) network adaptation to provide efficient sediment transport.

This work is linked with:

Improving bathing water quality in extreme storm events

Disease-causing microbes such as E.Coli bacteria can cause stomach pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or even respiratory or blood infections. Climate change can make such microbes more prevalent and better able to infect humans, for example when bathing in the sea, or camping in a site with inadequate sewage treatment capacity.


  • Use existing tools that predict, monitor and manage water-borne diseases;
  • Implement a Combined Sewer Overflow management tool that combines advanced on-line pathogen monitoring and water quality models to prevent water quality decrease.

This work is linked with:

Increasing drinking water plant resilience to water-borne pathogens

Blue–green algae find temperatures of around 25°C optimal for their growth. Algal blooms usually develop during the warmer months of the year, when water temperature is higher and there is more sunlight, but a warming climate provides optimal conditions more often or for longer. Freshwater, estuarine and marine algae can impact on water quality, in some cases leading to health risks for people, stock, wildlife and domestic animals.


  • Implement advanced monitoring tools in freshwater reservoirs to predict algal bloom events;
  • Prevent algal growth in reservoirs using technology based on ultrasonic treatment;
  • Evaluate solar disinfection for the removal of algal cyanotoxins during drinking water treatment;
  • Implement quantitative microbial risk assessment techniques;
  • Develop an up-to-date decision support tool to consider specificities regarding the most vulnerable coastal regions and evaluate the resilience of current drinking water treatment systems.

Changes in the spatial distribution of species

Where different species of plants and animals live and thrive is highly dependent on factors such as the underlying geology and soil, the topography of the landscape, how much disturbance it experiences and which other organisms are there to provide food or competition. Climate is another, very significant factor.


  • Use the latest modelling techniques and analytical frameworks to explored how likely it is that species will change their distributions in the region because of climate change;
  • Assess potential changes in the spatial distributions of a wide range of taxa that occur in coastal dunes and marshlands along the Catalonian coast, comparing projected future distributional changes with past and current distributions and taking advantage of the IMPETUS digital toolkits;
  • Classify the assessed species (including vertebrates, invertebrates and plants) according to their risk of local extinction or significant decrease in local populations and their opportunities to expand their ranges;
  • Identify climate change adaptation measures that could strengthen the resilience of target species and ecosystems.

Satellite-based coastal erosion hot-spot assessment

Technology Readiness Level 8-9

Impact on coastal erosion is assessed by studying effects of past and future alterations of wave dynamics and morpho-hydrological conditions.


  • Establish a consistent time and spatial coverage of the Catalan coast by combining reliable datasets with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) detection;
  • Determine which areas are most vulnerable to coastal erosion, which will be key to identifying critical infrastructure in relation to the probable occurrence of extreme events.

This work is linked with:

  • ESA project ‘Coastal Change’
  • EO clinic Shoreline Mapping in the Gaza Strip (ESA, UNDP)
  • EU Destination Earth Initiative – DestinE

Economic impact assessment of physical climate risk

Technology Readiness Level 4-5

Socio-Economic tools and risk projections enable the assessment of climate risks and the establishment of projections and metrics regarding future investments.


  • Identify highly vulnerable hot-spots using open datasets for Copernicus services and satellite-derived variables;
  • Transform this knowledge into a specific regional model and include this in the Resilience Knowledge Booster;
  • Use the RKB and regional model to elaborate economic assessment metrics to aid decision making about investments and future mitigation plans.

This work is linked with:

  • European Investment Bank
  • European Central Bank

Pursuing behavioural change for climate resilient tourism

Persuading people to make changes to their behaviour and to sustain the new behaviours over time is a major challenge. People who live and work in any given region that is impacted by climate change need to understand what the risks and challenges are, how they can make positive changes, and how this can benefit them as well as the environment.


  • Set up small thematic groups of regional stakeholders and present them with hypothetical situations regarding climate change impacts;
  • Increase awareness about climate change impacts, especially for the tourism sector;
  • Co-design and demonstrate specific solutions for climate change adaptation in the tourism sector;
  • Promote behavioural change among all ranks of employees in companies in the tourism sector.


High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations.

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."


Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.


Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."


Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 


Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.


The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.