EDORA - European Drought Observatory for Resilience and Adaptation

EDORA - Newsletter #2 April 2023

In this newsletter we present the most recent developments in the EDORA project. In particular, this issue will deep-dive into the EDORA impact chains, i.e. conceptual models and narratives of drought risks for and across different systems and economic sectors in Europe. Related to this topic, you will have the opportunity to share your opinion about the usefulness of conceptual models for risk assessments in a short online survey. Finally, we invite you to come join the EDORA team at the EGU 2023 conference in Vienna (see details below), and the 2023 EDORA meeting (pre-announcement).

Impact chains to characterise drought risks for sectors and systems in Europe

In our interconnected world, the effects of climate change, extreme events and natural hazards - including droughts - are increasingly felt across economic sectors and systems (e.g. ecosystems). Understanding the drivers and root causes of risks for but also across different sectors and systems is hence an important prerequisite not only for risk assessment but also for risk management.

The EDORA project addresses this challenge by developing conceptual models of drought risks using the impact chains and impact webs approach for selected relevant sectors and systems in the European Union (see table below).

Impact chains are an analytical tool developed to support the assessment of climate risks , where drivers of vulnerability, exposure and hazard for a specific risk are identified and connected to showcase the relationships between them. Constructed using a combination of literature review and the consultation of stakeholders or experts, the output of impact chains can be represented through a visual model and accompanied by a storyline. In EDORA, impact chains were used to support the development of a sectoral risk assessment methodology, as a stepping stone for a new impact-based early-warning system for the European Union. In particular, the development of impact chains allowed to 1) define which drought-related risks are the most relevant for the sectors and systems considered in the European Union, 2) collect state-of-the-art information about drivers for these risks and how they are causally connected, 3) build graphic representations of these risks that were then discussed and validated during dedicated workshops with selected experts. Moreover, these sector-specific impact chains constitute a first step towards developing a more systemic understanding of drought risks that also considers critical interdependencies between sectors and systems.

In an effort to expand the focus from solely agriculture-related risks to other sectors and systems of high relevance for European society, the EDORA impact chains analyse the following sectors/systems and related risks:

Sector/system Identified risk
Forest ecosystems Decreased forest health due to drought
Freshwater ecosystems Decreased freshwater ecosystem health (disruption of environmental flow) due to drought
Agriculture (rain fed systems) Reduction of potential and actual crop yield (quantity and quality) due to drought
Agriculture (irrigated systems) Reduction of potential and actual crop yield (quantity and quality) due to drought
Public water supply Unmet household consumption water demand due to drought
Energy Unmet energy demand due to drought
Inland water transport Disruption of industrial and coal-based energy production due to drought

For each of these risks, we have expanded on the results of the systematic literature review about drought risk and impacts assessments in Europe, described in the previous newsletter. Moreover, we have organised a series of consultations, including seven online workshops, with more than 25 experts to help us correctly represent the current state of the scientific debate on each issue and validate the resulting impact chains. The deep-dive into sectoral risks allowed us to bring together a wealth of important sectoral advancements under the same risk framework, paving the way for a more coherent and up-to-date representation of drought risks at the EU level. From this sectoral deep-dive, we have derived a cross-sectoral conceptual model that sheds light on critical interdependencies between the systems considered in EDORA: you can learn more about this in the upcoming presentation at EGU23 (see below).

The complete findings of the impact chains analysis will be featured in the EDORA Drought Risk Atlas (expected publication Autumn 2023), together with the results of the sectoral drought risk assessments for the EU. In the meantime, you can find an example here below, where we present the impact chain model and a concise narrative for the public water supply sector.

Drought risk for public water supply

The public water supply sector in the European Union is responsible for providing circa 474 million citizens with their daily average 156 litres of high-quality water . The sector is threatened by drought events both in terms of the quantity and quality of water available for supply, which contributes to the risk of unmet household consumption water demand (see figure 1, red box). Here we present and briefly explain the impact chain conceptual model for this essential sector with selected examples of its risk drivers.

Jean Monnet banner
Figure 1: Impact chain of drought risk for public water supply in EU27 (source: EDORA project)

The climate drivers (see figure 1, blue box) connected to this risk are the combination of insufficient precipitation and high temperatures, which ultimately result in reduced groundwater and surface water levels in both the streams and reservoirs that are used as sources for drinking water. In addition to affecting the amount of water, these changes also negatively affect water quality, as lower water levels result in increased concentrations of toxic substances, and in some cases also exacerbate the effect of saltwater intrusion. Moreover, increased water temperature due to high air temperatures is connected to the development of algal bloom, bacteria, and viruses, which can stress or even exceed the treatment capacity needed to provide safe water for household consumers (see figure 1, orange box).

Multiple vulnerability drivers (see figure 1, green box) can aggravate this risk. For instance, increased soil sealing hinders groundwater recharge, and water abstractions by other sectors also contribute to reduced availability. Furthermore, losses can occurr during distribution due to outdated pipe networks. Finally, challenges related to management can also be responsible for water quality deterioration, for example through increased wastewater pollution and insufficient monitoring capacity, potentially threatening human health.

ONLINE SURVEY: Usefulness of conceptual risk models - what is your take?

Conceptual models, such as impact chains, that aim to characterise risks, their underlying drivers as well as their interactions, are more and more present in the field of risk science. To fully explore their potential to understand and manage risks, it is essential to understand the perception of their usefulness among different actors in the field of climate risk science, practice and policy (e.g. policy makers, practitioners, private sector, civil society, academia).

Therefore, we invite you to contribute to a short online survey about your experience and opinions on conceptual risk models. The survey will only take 5-10 minutes of your time and results will be treated anonymously. If you would like to join, please find the link to the online survey here.

Come join us at EGU 2023

We are pleased to announce that EDORA will be present at the upcoming EGU 2023 conference which will take place in Vienna, Austria, from 24-28 April 2023. An overview of EDORA events at EGU 2023 is provided below. Please come and join us!

EDORA meeting - September 2023

The EDORA meeting for 2023 will take place in hybrid format again, in the second half of September. The event will be the best opportunity to learn about the results of the EDORA project and its next phase, and will include a session at the European Parliament. Furthermore, it will introduce the new developments of the Copernicus European Drought Observatory.
More info will follow in the coming weeks!

EDORA is funded by European Commission.

No 09200200.A092005/2021/862347/ENV.C.1 – Lot 1 “Development and implementation of a drought impact database, a drought risk assessment methodology and a drought risk atlas”

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.