SwimCity, The impact of floods and storm events on short-term variations of water quality in urban recreational surface waters

Dr. Sílvia Cervero-Aragó (MedUni Wien, Zentrum für Pathophysiologie, Infektiologie und Immunologie), Dr. Julia Derx (TU Wien, Institut für Wasserbau und Ingenieurhydrologie)

In order to achieve the UN Sustainable Developmental Goals, it is essential to ensure an adequate quality and safe use of the urban water resources that is resilient to climate change, urbanisation and population growth. According to predictions for some parts of Austria, climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of storm events, and lead to increased flow rates of the rivers. In parallel, demographic studies estimated that by 2050, around 75% of the world’s population will be residing in urban areas. The dramatic increase in urbanization will also increase the amount of impervious areas reducing the amount of water absorbed by the soil.

The presence of human and animal enteric pathogens in water is caused by fecal contamination. In cities, these pathogens are introduced into surface and groundwater through the discharge of wastewater, combined sewer overflows or as rainfall induced runoff from human or animal feces. Thus, more storm water runoff leading to more combined sewer overflows reduces the quality of the urban water resources and poses a public health risk when using them for drinking water production, recreation and irrigation. 

Currently, there is a lack of understanding how cities and water management should react to the challenges that large changes in precipitation events due to climate change will generate. In particular studies on the effect of storm events and floods on the short-term variations of the city’s water quality and the risks of infection are urgently needed.

The goal of our project is to study how floods and extreme precipitation impact the quality of two representative urban water bodies. To do that, a holistic approach will be applied by an interdisciplinary team of researchers based on an innovative combination of state-of-the-art monitoring and modelling techniques. Monitoring techniques consist of advanced genetic quantitative microbial source tracking methods, analyses of standard fecal indicators (SFI) and methods for enumerating and genotyping Cryptosporidium, a reference pathogens considered one of the most common protozoan enteropathogens worldwide. The data obtained will be used for evaluating a transient hydrological and a hydraulic transport model during storm and flood events and for gaining insights into the microbial fate and transport from potential human and non-human fecal sources. Results will provide the information needed for assessing the risk of fecal transmittable infections and for devising sustainable management strategies to ensure the safe use of urban waters. This is a cooperation project of the Interuniversity Cooperation Centre Water &Health (www.waterandhealth.at).

CHAP - Climate, Health and Population - Climate Change and Differential Vulnerabilities in the Metropolitan Area of Vienna

Dr. Erich Striessnig (ÖAW, Institut für Demographie), Dr. Roman Hoffmann (ÖAW, Institut für Demographie) in Zusammenarbeit mit Dr. Maya Muttarak (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, IIASA)

Climate change and its consequences will affect populations worldwide. Extreme weather events, such as heat waves, cold spells, heavy rainfalls and droughts, are expected to become more frequent and more intense. Also, Austria will be increasingly affected by changing climatic conditions, particularly with respect to thermal hazards. The „Climate, Health and Population  – Climate Change and Differential Vulnerabilities in the Metropolitan Area of Vienna“ (CHAP) project, funded by the Jubilee Fund of the City of Vienna for the Austrian Academy of Sciences, studies the impact of changing environmental conditions on population health in the metropolitan area of Vienna. A particular focus will be placed on the effects of thermal hazards, which are predicted to become more severe, especially in fast-growing cities like Vienna. The project has two main objectives: First, we analyze the influences of temperature extremes, i.e. heat waves and cold spells, on morbidity and mortality, using historical data on hospitalizations and medical treatments. Second, building on the findings from the first part of the project, we project future climate and population dynamics and estimate the expected health burden for the metropolitan area of Vienna. As climatic and demographic changes can mutually reinforce each other, taking an integrated perspective is essential. As further novel contribution, we do not only take social factors as drivers of differential health vulnerabilities into account, but also structural aspects of the built environment, such as urban density or the availability of green spaces, which can help mitigate the harmful effects of weather extremes. The expected insights from the project are of high relevance both for academic research and policy makers and have multiple implications for urban planning and public health.

VIENNACLIMATEGAME - Climate Games in the City of Vienna

Dr. Helga Pülzl, Frau Dr. Sarah Nash (BOKU Wien, Institut für Wald-, Umwelt- und Ressourcenpolitik)

In recent months, climate change has occupied a very prominent position on political agendas, not only at the global level and in nation-states, but also within federal state and city politics with many cities adopting more ambitious climate policies than the countries within which they sit. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly clear that young people are at the forefront of pushing for action on climate change, epitomised by the Fridays for Future movement. Therein young people are showing that they do not just want to be passive recipients of climate policies but are actively shaping public discourse and bringing themselves into policy processes. Vienna Climate Games therefore draws attention to both the importance of the city –Vienna – for climate action and the agency of young people in the fight against climate change.

This project, which will involve workshops in Viennese schools as a key element of the research, aims to gain a better understanding of how young citizens envisage their climate futures, and what they perceive to be necessary and possible climate actions in the city of Vienna. Collaborative configuration of the workshops is designed to be empowering for young people and is intended to give them agency in relation to the challenges of climate change starting from an early age. At the core of the project is the development of a climate action game that will be a tool for exploring the roles of different actors in developing climate action in the city of Vienna. Participants in the game will be tasked with finding consensus on mechanisms and instruments for climate action in Vienna, with individual players at the same time having the goal to persuade other players to support their preferred strategies. The societal and political complexities of developing climate action in the city are thus made apparent.

To achieve longevity beyond the timespan of this project, the game that is developed in Vienna Climate Games will be published, together with accompanying teaching materials that allow teachers to utilise the resource independently in their teaching. All of this will be made available to Viennese schools. The project Vienna Climate Games also builds a bridge between young citizens and policy communities and findings of the project will be communicated directly to policy makers in the city of Vienna. Young citizens are not only the next generation of voters, but are also the generation that is most burdened with the responsibility to implement actions that counteract climate change. Deeper knowledge about their perceptions of climate action at the city level can feed directly into city strategy.