Screening Tool for Water Management

Development of a "Screening Tool" for climate proofing of water management measures

In order to adequately address already occurring climate change impacts (reactive adaptation) or to be early enough prepared for future anticipated but uncertain developments in the climate system (proactive adjustment), water management measures should be assessed and, if necessary, be adjusted or changed. Such an assessment ensures that measures now and under changed conditions can achieve their intented objectives, for example reducing nutrient inputs into water or flood retention.

Therefore, on the one hand existing water management measures (e.g. from the first WFD cycle) should be checked and, if necessary, be adapted. On the other hand, when planning new measures the time scale and the uncertainty of projections of potential climate change should be taken into account. For this purpose, the "Screening Tool for Water Management" uses a set of questions and indicators ("Checklist") to assess measures. Thus, by using the Screening Tool existing and conceptional or planned measures can be reviewed ("screened") to provide a first assessment of the climate robustness of measures(s) in relation to expected (regional) climate change impacts and towards their contribution to addressing climate change.

The "Screening Tool for Water Management" is not designed to examine the general functionality of a generic (or specific) water management measure in regards to achieving its general goal, but rather it aims for a practical, user-oriented assessment of the functionality of the measure under the projected future climatic changes in Germany (or in a region).

The Screening Tool is primarily geared towards implementing authorities/planning authorities (local or federal state) at the level of a generic individual measure (in contrast to a programme of measure or something similar). An aggregation of results and/or measures in the determination of the climate robustness is questionable from a technical viewpoint. In addition, the change in the indirect benefits (secondary benefits like the positive effects of a restored flood plain on tourism) of a measure can also not be included in the assessment due to the high complexity of this topic.

Due to the high practicality of the Screening Tool and its explicit use for "screening" purposes, it cannot replace other procedures for estimating the impact of measures (e.g. UVP/SUP, CBA, etc.). Due to this fact, the Screening Tool does not form a "hard" decision-making basis for the implementation/non-implementation of a measure, but rather enables an additional assessment of the suitability of a water management measure in light of climate change. The Screening Tool therefore does not represent an exclusion criterion during the selection of measures, but rather serves as an additional validation step to encourage a consideration of the impacts of climate change on the measure.

The structure of the Screening Tool is based on the CIS guidelines from the European Commission and primarily includes two areas ("assessment areas") that represent the procedure of the screening process:

  • Assessment area: Climate robustness
  • Assessment area: Effects on climate change

Under each of the two assessment areas, questions are posed that lead the user to a concrete answer/result. The questions come from various sources: some were developed under this project; some have been taken from different sources in literature, the CIS Guidance Document, the WASKlim project, the UBA KomPass work on the evaluation of adaptation measures; some were identified through interviews focussing on expectations of potential users; and some came from the discussions within the research advisory panel (FBK) to this project.

The assessment areas and topics are:

Assessment areaTopicShort explanation
Climate robustnessTopic 1:
Relevance of the measure
This topic examines if the measure is at all relevant under changed climate conditions.
Topic 2:
Effectiveness of the measure
This topic examines how the effectiveness of the measure changes under changed climatic conditions.
Topic 3:
Flexibility and reversibility of the measure
This topic examines how flexible the measure is and how it can be adjusted to changed climatic conditions.
Topic 4:
Side effects
This topic should be used to examine if the measure has positive or negative effects on other ecosystems or activities within water management relevant sectors in the future.
Effects on climate changeTopic 5:
Intensification of climate change
This topic should examine if the measure intensifies climate change, i.e. it leads to a release of additional greenhouse gases.

Application of the Screening Tool

Go to und click on "Login" (upper right corner). You now have the possibility to register a new account or login using an existing one.

Before the actual assessment of a respective measure, an introductory "preliminary step" will appear in a pop up window directly after you have selected "Create new survey".

The preliminary step consists of three parts. In the first step, you should determine if the assessment of the measure makes sense at all in regards to its climate robustness (e.g. this is not the case for measures that are geared towards education, "awareness raising" and "capacity building" because they are not affected by the impacts of climate change).

Other measures may only be of a short duration so that throughout their lifetime there will not be any climate change impacts that go beyond the current situation. An application of the Screening Tool is therefore not necessary for short-term measures; it should be noted that the longer the lifetime of a measure the more "helpful" or more significant the application of the tool becomes.

In the first step, the name, type (generic or specific measure, identification numbers, if available) and short description of the respective measure, as well as its planning progress, will be entered into the programme.

In the second part of the preliminary step, regional or the most current climate projects should be identified and set as a basis for further assessments. If there are different and/or contradictory projections for a region, then this must be clearly documented in the uncertainties section. The time period of the projections must also be specified. There is also a possibility to differentiate between winter and summer.

The user will be given a series of sources for this (each with a short explanation of the content), which represent the current state of research during the duration of this project. The user should quickly research if there are more current and/or regional-specific climate projects available.

If recommendations for specific projections within a region exist (e.g. for Bavaria the provision of a uniform, inspected ensemble is planned starting in 2016/17 through the "Climate Future Bavaria" project), these should be applied for the assessment of measures in the Screening Tool.

Based on these projections, the user creates a list of the expected climatic changes. It is not considered useful to illustrate these changes in difficult to grasp units - like "+1 degree increase in air temperature". Instead, the physical effects are "translated" in a series of climate impacts that are selected through a drop-down menu in the Screening Tool:

  • More frequent droughts,
  • Increased/stronger inland flood events,
  • Increased heavy rainfall,
  • Increasing lower water levels,
  • Change in air temperature/water temperature,
  • Increased storm surges,
  • Changes in the groundwater level/recharge (including groundwater flooding),
  • Changes to the average water flow,
  • Seasonal shifts in precipitation throughout the year (in particular an increase in the winter, decrease in the summer),
  • Sea level rise.

The selected (or excluded) climate impacts will then be considered (or no longer considered) during the screening in order to configure the processing and the later representation of results in a simple and clear manner in the form of a bar chart.

In the third and final step, the user is asked to note the assumptions and knowledge important for the application of the Screening Tool in a comment field (free text). In the best case, the points that should be noted include:

  • Document how the user dealt with the climate projection and the time-scale of the measure in relation to its lifespan. Short-term measures may be completed at a time in which climate change does not yet result in any significant impacts going beyond what is known today. In such a case, the application of the Screening Tool may not be necessary or may occur on a theoretical level (e.g. assumption that the measure will be implemented in the near future). The free text field should be used to explain if this question played a role and how this was dealt with.
  • Which climate projections (sources) were used (including project time-scale, web links, etc.).

Additional information and detailed tips to using the Screening Tool are available in the Instruction Manual.