Continental demo site

Berlin-Brandenburg, DE

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The metropolitan Berlin-Brandenburg region in the north-eastern German lowlands has a relatively high surface area of rivers and lakes, but natural flow is low and precipitation is decreasing.

The city of Berlin and its metropolitan region rely on groundwater as the drinking water production source. Treated wastewater is currently released back into the local freshwaters, resulting in a partially closed water management cycle within the city area. Brandenburg state has a higher reliance on water for agriculture and ecosystems. The rising pressure of climate change is impacting the natural water cycle.


reduction of summertime natural surface water runoff by 2040
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Contact this team | Kontaktieren Sie dieses Team :

  • Daniel Wicke – daniel.wicke[@]


Water stress

Water usage conflicts

New policies required

Infographic showing the Berlin water cycle, water quantity and quality challenges, and regional IMPETUS partners and activities.
Infographic of the Berlin water cycle, water quantity and quality challenges, and regional IMPETUS partners and activities.(© ESCI)

Berlin and its surroundings have a relatively high surface area of rivers and lakes. The city relies on riverbank filtration and groundwater recharge using surface water as its main sources for drinking water production. As some of the surface waters used for bank filtration are impacted by treated wastewater that is discharged upstream from wastewater treatment plants, the water cycle is partially closed.

The nearby open pit mine in Lausitz stays dry by pumping its groundwater into the river Spree, which is one of two major rivers flowing through Berlin. On average, one third of the river water comes from the open pit mine.

Berlin’s large population is expected to grow, meaning more wastewater will be produced.

Increasing amounts of treated wastewater will constitute a growing proportion of the total volume in the water cycle, as other sources are expected to dwindle. This raises the risk that micropollutants, such as trace residues from pharmaceutical products, become more concentrated, reducing water quality.

Quantity of water is the greatest concern:

  • In recent dry years, the flow of surface waters was already half of the long-term average.
  • The growing population will require more water for domestic use and for industry.
  • The city’s growing water demand already conflicts with the needs for new industries, waterways usage (shipping, tourism) and natural habitats in the region.
  • The amount of water available is expected to reduce within a few years, when the nearby Lausitz mine closes and stops pumping its groundwater into the river Spree.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate the situation by increasing the duration and frequency of droughts through higher temperatures and reduced precipitation.

To help Berlin’s water management and regional policy makers adapt to these challenges, the local IMPETUS partners are developing a digital model exploring different climate change scenarios and measures to mitigate the challenges.

The results will be used in ‘Decision Theatre’ workshops to engage local stakeholders in co-creation of solutions. And this will support sustainable decision making and a regional strategy for water management and climate change adaptation.

Ambitions within IMPETUS:

Map the trans-regional water cycle and water balance

(quantitative and qualitative)

Assess cross-sectoral, trans-regional vulnerability of critical water usages

Define and assess future scenarios including cross-sectoral water usage

Simulate future regional water balance scenarios

Reduce uncertainties in scientific models and analytical tools

Integrate data, models, tools and simulations in a Resilience Knowledge Booster

as a regional ‘toolbox’ and known information source

to pave the way for:

Establishment of a regional water board

(across federal state boundaries), negotiating water rights based on supply-demand scenarios

Vulnerability assessment and prioritisation of water usage

for various scenarios

Region to serve as a ‘lighthouse’ in the national water strategy

best-practice examples

Continuation of the Resilience Knowledge Booster

for regional and international adaptation activities.

Test solutions:

Integrated mapping and regional watershed modelling

Technology Readiness Level 7-9

Based on surface water, ground water and soil model coupling, this technology involves the operation of monitoring networks and the application of HYDRAX / QSIM / MODFLOW models to assess and manage water bodies and comply with the water framework directive.


  • Over these modelling tools, analytical tools will be developed to assess regional water flows across the environmental compartments.
  • SWAT+, FREEWAT and zeHGW models will be integrated for surface water-groundwater interaction.
  • Earth data will be included for the projection of water levels and to assess impacts on land use.
  • Scenarios of management of upstream surface water levels and waste water discharges to the Spree-Havel river system will be simulated.

This work is linked with:

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

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.