Water management companies will face huge challenges due to climate change and need to start adapting their strategies, experts warned in Amsterdam on Friday.

"Whatever we do in mitigation (trying to cut carbon emissions), global warming will still happen so we have to look at adaptation" to a higher global mean temperature, said Professor Paul Kabat, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, at a symposium here.

Kabat, other experts, and managers of regional waterworks from different countries gathered to discuss water management and climate change at the meeting organized by the International Water Association (IWA), specialised in climate change and adaptating to it.

One problem is that water resources management is often based on the idea of a worst case scenario, said Casey Brown of the US-based International Research Institute of Climate and Society said. "Climate has always been changing, it is a wrong idea that the climate now is a sort of ideal and the future is dark and uncertain," he said.

"Many water systems are designed to be prepared for the worst drought on record any year." Scientists now have much more accurate yearly predictions which can show, for example, that it is highly unlikely for a drought to occur in certain years, and they can adapt accordingly, Brown added.

The Netherlands, a densely populated country where one third of the land is below sea level, is often cited as an example of water management and flood protection. Dutch water management company Waternet, which supplies more than a million people in the wider Amsterdam urban areas, is already planning for the future, its director, Roelof Kruize, told AFP.

"The new climate scenarios for the Netherlands show more extreme weather, like sudden heavy rains. We can't keep pumping out water to the sea, also because sea levels are rising, so now we are looking to more designated areas that can be flooded to deal with excess water," said Kruize, also chairman of the IWA specialist group. He said the company was looking in some areas at new solutions like collecting water on the roofs of offices or designating car parks that could be flooded. Waternet is also lobbying for more sidewalks in the centre of Amsterdam.

"Now the trend is for sidewalks that are level with the street. I want them to bring back elevated sidewalks so that sudden heavy rainfall does not mean the water will flow through the front doors," Kruize said.


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