This case study will explore extreme weather and climate events (intense and deficient precipitation) along with ripple effects including key lifeline interruptions, industrial accidents, water crisis, and pollution. It will include proposals for improvements in emergency management, and possible insurance systems.
Amplified flood as a result of disrupted drainage infrastructure
In May 2012, Northern Italy experienced a devastating earthquake with the magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale in the downstream part of the Po River Basin District. The earthquake damaged critical components of the land drainage system and exacerbated flood risk over approximately 1000 km2 of land.
The affected area holds several middle-sized urban centres (20-60 thousands residents), pieces of central infrastructure systems, and major industrial areas. The estimated potential losses over the entire quake-shattered area amount to €10 billion. The studied area is located in the low-altitude floodplains at the foot of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines between the rivers Po, Secchia and Enzo. The impaired infrastructure, especially the ill-functioning water pumps that elevate and discharge the drained water into the Secchia river when the high water stages prevent outflow by gravitation, resulted in higher flood risk and hence potential economic damage.
Under these circumstances, the Land Reclamation and Irrigation Board (LRIB) Emilia Centrale has been temporarily unable to fully accomplish its statutory role. Together with the Po River Basin Authority (P-RBA) and the civil protection agencies of the affected regions (Lombardy and Emilia Romagna), a temporarily emergency plan has been devised which foresees controlled floods on low-value agricultural land that prevent large losses on high-value land uses, in particularly the urbanized areas on the border between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy.
A better understanding of risk in the area is critical for the partnership. ENHANCE assists this by improving hazard and risk assessment with research and in-depth analysis of the financial and economic instruments for equitable cost sharing arrangements. In addition, ENHANCE supports the partnership, initially conceived as a provisional arrangement, to become a constituent part of a medium- to long-term strategy of disaster risk reduction within the district.
Drought threat in the Po basin
The Po valley, a majority of which is comprised in the Po River Basin District (PRBD), is Italy’s largest contiguous agricultural land. The PRBD accounts for nearly 21% of the total agricultural area (TAA); 21.5% utilised agricultural area (UAA); almost entire national production of rice and about or more than a half of the national production of soft wheat, rye, maize, sorghum, and other cereals; and almost 30% of the agricultural value added. The basin is also one of the economic engines of the country.
Although the Po River Basin District is under normal conditions as one of the better water-endowed regions of Italy, the severe and persistent drought spells of 2003 and 2006-2007 proved Northern Italy's vulnerability to climate variability and change. During the 2003 drought, the Po River reached its absolute minimum water level ever with 270m3/s compared to an average of 1400m3/s.
The over allocation of water resources under the conditions of drought led to critical water shortages in agriculture, energy, and the public water supply.
Given the critical role of the region for Italian agriculture, industry and energy production, measures to prepare for future events had to be taken. The Drought Steering Committee (DSC), a forum of the river basin's major water users, was initiated in May 2003. Gathering private and public actors, the Committee is initiated early at the onset of a dry spell to regularly review the unfolding drought condition and deliberate potential actions to reduce the risk of water crisis and ensuing damage.
Improving the decision making process
The DSC makes important and wide-reaching decisions that were able to reduce the drought impact to some extent but are however economically sub-optimal.
The goal of the ENHANCE team's research consists of informing the DSC collaborative decision making about the economic efficiency of the adopted solutions to drought and demonstrating how a more efficient allocation of water could be achieved by economic instruments such as scarcity pricing, exchange of water entitlements and insurance.
State of play
The ENHANCE partners have conducted analysis of how the earthquake amplified flood risk in the affected areas. It includes assessment of financial and economic costs caused by floods as well as assessment of avoided damage through controlled floods in low value land use areas. The ENHANCE partners have estimated the impacts of climate variability and drought and change on agricultural production in the Po river basin district and estimated the willingness to pay for agricultural insurance.
The case study considers multi hazard risk situations (‘hazard chains’) based on: (1) review of historical disasters; (2) up-to-date climate projections for the case study region; (3) cutting edge modeling framework for simulation of drought and flood events; (4) state-of-the art research on direct/indirect economic costs and social hardship of the extreme events. The aim is to analyze risk and vulnerability of rural and urban communities and key economic sectors in the largest and most important Italian river basin (ca. 40% of GDP and national agricultural production).
The total time period for the ENHANCE project encompasses 48 months (month 1: December 2012). The time frame necessary to complete the deliverables within the case study is:
D1. Report: Month 12
D2. Report: Month 17
D3. Report & Database: Month 27
D4. Report: Month 36
D5. Report: Month 39
Five deliverables are formulated by the case study:
D1. Report: Risk profile case study using conceptual framework
D2. Report: Stakeholders analyses and MSP
D3. Report & Database: Risk Assessment results
D4. Report: Description of MSPs and disaster resilience schemes
D5. Report: Case study synthesis and policy recommendations