Last July, Copenhagen suffered five billion kroner of damage when a heavy downpour deposited about 150 millimetres of rain in three hours, turning roads into canals and flooding basements across the city.
Afterward it was agreed that massive investments were needed in order to improve how the city copes with sudden heavy downpours that are expected to increase in frequency as a result of climate change.
This was a high priority in the government’s 2013 budget negotiations with councils that ended on Sunday with an agreement to find an extra 2.5 billion kroner to invest in climate adaptation measures.
The problems caused by downpours extend across council borders, so it was agreed that the responsibility for upgrading water infrastructure should be handled by water companies, which would be allowed to increasing their rates to home-owners in order to finance the upgrades.
As a result, homeowners in Copenhagen will end up paying an extra 50 kroner a month to Københanvs Energi, the company responsible for handling the wastewater of most councils in Greater Copenhagen.
Copenhagen deputy mayor for the environment, Ayfer Baykal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), argued that the incrase was minimal compared with the 7,000 kroner annual cost paid by an average household and 4,000 kroner paid by apartment owners to have their wastewater treated.
The investments would also secure thousands of homes from flooding, thereby reducing insurance premiums.
“Two more downpours would break us, because it would mean we wouldn’t be able to pay our insurance premiums,” Baykal told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Last Friday parliament passed a law to reduce the bureaucracy and make it easier for water companies to develop and change local plans to in order to make the investments the needed in order to adapt to climate change.
The law also allowed the water companies to extend the repayment period for council guaranteed loans from 25 to 40 years. Doing so, according to the association of local councils, Kommunes Landsforening (KL), would soften the blow to homeowners.
“It will reduce the size of payments made by residents,” Erik Nielsen, KL’s chairman, told Jyllands-Posten.
According the Environment Ministry, the range of investments to tackle excess rain water will create 3,000 jobs.
“Building can now begin,” the environment minister, Ida Auken, wrote in a press release. “The government’s climate adaptation deal will create 3,000 green jobs all over the country while also solving the challenge of posed by heavy rain and sky bursts.”
Nielsen identified several different measures that could be adopted to better tackle excess rainwater, from building higher curbs so that roads can become canals, as well as using parks and football fields as reservoirs.
Københavns Energi has laid out a strategy for how it hopes to minimise the impact of excess rainwater. In an article in the trade journal danskVAND the company identifies three strategies for dealing with heavy downpours.
First is a new approach to dealing with sewers when they become full of water. Traditionally, the water is kept inside the sewer system in order to prevent the harbour becoming polluted. Now, however, two sewage reservoirs will empty into the harbour once they have reached a critical level to allow more water in from Vesterbro and Frederiksberg.
Investments will also be made to better channel surface water away from low-lying areas of the city and toward natural reservoirs such as parks and football fields as well as out toward the sea.
København Energi also wants to invest in better monitoring of water levels in order to more exactly target problem areas and warn residents of critically high water levels. To do this they are asking residents to help by launching a smartphone app they can use to send photos with their observations of water levels.