News from 2018



February 14, 2018 - 2:00PM, Swedish Defence University

Upon receiving an invitation, please register your participation by 9 February to Stephanie Young.

Volcano eruption



The latest addition to Routledges series on Advances in Climate Change Research is the book "Local Action on Climate Change - Opportunities and constraints" with valuable contributions from CNDS board member Mikael Granberg and CNDS management team member Lars Nyberg.

Local Action on Climate Change examines how local climate change responses are emerging, being operationalized and evaluated within a range of geographical and socio-political contexts across the globe. Focussing on the role and potential of local governments, non-government organisations and community groups in driving transformative change, the authors analyse how local climate change responses have emerged and explore the extent to which they are or have the potential to be innovative or transformative in terms of governance, policy and practice change.

Drawing on a diverse range of case studies, including examples from Vanuatu, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, the USA and India, this book should be of great interest to students and scholars of climate change, environmental policy and governance, and sustainability.

Contributions from CNDS

  • Moloney, S., Fünfgeld, H. and Granberg, M., Editors (2018), Climate change responses from the global to local scale: an overview, pp. 1-16
  • Baja, K. and Granberg, M. (2018), From engagement to empowerment: climate change and resilience planning in Baltimore City, pp. 126-145
  • Moloney, S., Fünfgeld, H. and Granberg, M. (2018), Towards transformative action: learning from local experiences and contexts, pp. 146-156
  • Granberg, M. and Nyberg, L. (2018), Climate change adaptation, city competitiveness and urban planning in the city of Karlstad, Sweden, pp. 111-125


Local Action on Climate Change - Opportunities and constraints, at the webpage of publisher Routledge

Local Action on Climate Change: Opportunities and Constraints (Hardback) book cover



Applications are now being accepted for the CNDS/EGU Summer School on Natural Hazards in the Anthropocene scheduled for 20-24 August 2018 in Uppsala, Sweden. Find out more here.

Lightning over city



We are announcing six new positions at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University. They will be partly funded by the ERC project HydroSocialExtremes, and affiliated to the Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science (CNDS).



These five volcanos are considered especially dangerous since they would have devastingly effects for humanity if they awakened. In this short and informative video clip, CNDS fellow Professor Troll explains some of societal consequences we could expect if one of these volcanos erupted.



The position will contribute to a research theme at CNDS, which is aimed at understanding the short-term and long-term consequences of resilience policies at the national and local policy levels. The larger research effort is designed to address the consequences of resilience as an established policy paradigm. Current research has focused on the emergence and spread of such policies as well as the scope of conditions for producing a more resilient individual, community or infrastructure. We are cognizant of the emergence and spread of resilience as an organizational principle for defining national policies in many countries, but presently have inadequate knowledge of which negative and positive consequences these policies will produce for the public and private sectors.

Three students talking to each other

The PhD project tied to this position will analyse policies for resilience and disaster risk reduction and their outcomes at the national and local levels. The successful applicant will primarily be engaged in her/his own doctoral studies in Political Science with a focus on Natural Hazards and Disaster Science. Teaching and administration will be limited to a maximum of 20% fulltime.

The PhD student will be employed at the Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL) at the Swedish Defence University (SEDU), and take active part in the CNDS curriculum, activities and networks. Until the PhD programme at the Swedish Defence University officially starts, the PhD student will be registered at another university.


Giuliano Di Baldassarre about adaptation to flood risk in Bangladesh


Giuliano Di Baldassarre, the Director of CNDS, contributed to a piece about Bangladesh's challenges and new-founded opportunities posed by flooding on Radio Sweden’s program “Vetandets värld”.

Flooded city

Professor Giuliano Di Baldassarre points out that today there are significantly fewer fatalities and economic losses in Bangladesh as a result of storms and floods than just 40 years ago. Things are truly getting better and it is important that we take note of these lessons in order to see if and how they can be implemented elsewhere.

Research reveals that the world's perhaps most vulnerable country, Bangladesh, has indeed become better at managing recurring violent floods and in fact has learned ways to use them to initiate new commercial activities. A new giant industry, shrimp cultivation, has literally grown up in Bangladesh's huge water bodies. Despite a successful learning curve in terms of reducing losses caused by natural hazards, Giuliano Di Baldassarre believes there are limits to Bangladesh’s adaptation, especially considering the other rising challenges such as the growing population. Therefore it is important to apply a comprehensive approach to disaster management, giving consideration to technical, economic, political and societal factors.

Listen to the entire radio program here.

Two PhD positions at the Department of Engineering Sciences, Division of Electricity, Uppsala University


  • PhD position in survivability of marine structures with focus on offshore renewable energy systems
  • PhD position in reduced vulnerability of the electric grid

Cross-disciplinary CNDS commentary accepted for publication


A commentary titled "An integrative research framework to unravel the interplay of natural hazards and vulnerabilities", written by a group of CNDS researchers, has been accepted for publication in the open access journal Earth's future.

The commentary argues for the integration of the two major approaches to DRR, with focus on hazard and on vulnerability respectively, by proposing a new research framework. The list of authors includes CNDS researchers from a wide range of disciplines, reflecting the interdisciplinary collabortaive work being conducted at CNDS.

Giuliano Di Baldassarre portraitWe asked Professor Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Director of CNDS and one of the researchers behind the commentary, to tell us more.

"We have collected a diverse community of social, engineering and earth scientists to analyse the global trends in economic losses caused by natural hazards and collectively we have written a commentary proposing a new research framework for disaster risk reduction."

Can you tell us a little bit about your findings?

"Our commentary identifies three main puzzles in the nexus of natural hazards and vulnerabilities, and demonstrates how novel approaches are needed to solve them with reference to a flood risk example. Specifically, we show how a new research framework can guide systematic data collections to advance the fundamental understanding of socio-natural interactions, which, we argue, is an essential step to improve disaster risk reduction through evidence-based policy-making."

Mikael Granberg portraitCCS director Professor Mikael Granberg is another of the researchers behind the commentary. Mikael says:

"The commentary is the result of a truly multi-disciplinary process in the guiding spirit of both CNDS and CCS. Also, the focus on creating knowledge to improve evidence-based policy-making for disaster risk reduction is close to the core focus of both CNDS and CCS."

Congratulations to all those who contributed to this fantastic achievement. We look forward to seeing how the research framework will be put to test!

CNDS fellows publish article in Advances in Water Resources


Beatriz Quesada Montano and Giuliano Di Baldassarre together with colleagues from Costa Rica and the UK propose a new method that allows assessing changes in both floods and droughts in a consistent way.

Flood in the city

Since there is a lack of consistency in the definition of floods and droughts, it is difficult to use the results of various studies directly into water management. Therefore, CNDS researchers set out to address this methodological dilemma in their article "Hydrological change: Towards a consistent approach to assess changes on both floods and droughts". 

Here they posit that consistent approaches are needed to assess changes on both hydrological extremes, i.e. floods and droughts. In addition, they propose a method based on the theory of runs and threshold levels by using the Po River, Italy, as an example application.

Finding Consistent Measurements For Drought And Flood Assessments


In Science Trends, Beatriz Quesada-Montano and Giuliano Di Baldassare share their insights on attempts to find consistent measurements for drought and flood assessments.

Image by Pixabay (Science Trends)

Several studies have found that both hydrological extremes (floods and droughts) are occurring more often and are becoming more intense in some regions of the world. But to come to these conclusions, most of the studies have dealt with floods and droughts separately and defined them in a way that does not reflect their “opposite-extreme” nature. For example, while floods are sometimes defined in terms of one event per year (the one with the highest river flow) droughts are defined as all the events that fall below a predefined threshold.

Given the lack of consistency in the definition of floods and droughts, it is difficult to use the results of those studies directly into water management. In addition, studies dealing with changes in floods do not include important characteristics, such as duration and/or water volume associated with the event, which are included in drought studies. These characteristics could be quite useful in decision making. For example, it would be possible to plan on whether the excess volume associated with one or more flood events can be used to alleviate a drought event.

To deal with the limitations described above, we propose a method that allows assessing changes in both floods and droughts in a consistent way. We define floods and droughts based on pre-defined thresholds, so a drought is defined when the flow is below the drought threshold, and a flood when the flow is above the flood threshold. This definition allows obtaining important characteristics such as frequency, duration, and surplus volumes (for floods) and deficit volumes (for droughts). Given the consistency of our approach, the proposed methodology is useful for assessing changes of both extremes associated to the increase of human activities, a situation that is getting more common around the world.

To prove this, we applied the methodology in the Po River basin in Italy, where studies have found that water human activities such as water abstraction, reservoirs, and levees have induced changes in floods and droughts. Our method was able to capture an exacerbation of both extremes in this basin. The interaction and feedback of water and people is gaining interest in the research community and a consistent treatment of floods and droughts opens up new ways of modeling this interaction.

Their complete findings are described in the article entitled Hydrological change: Towards a consistent approach to assess changes on both floods and droughts, recently published in the journal Advances in Water Resources. This work was conducted by Beatriz Quesada-Montano and Giuliano Di Baldassarre from Uppsala University, and Sally Rangecroft and Anne F. Van Loon from Birmingham University.

Research Article: Systematic Knowledge Sharing in a Natural Hazard Damage Context - How Organizational Borders Limit Lessons Learned 


CNDS fellows Monika Rydstedt Nyman and Magnus Johansson are co-authors of a new article on lesson learning.

The aim of their paper is to increase knowledge about systematic lessons learning in a public–private partnership. Empirically, it focuses on road maintenance in Sweden where the Swedish Transport Administration (STA) is responsible for the state-owned infrastructure and tendered contractors carry out all maintenance. The tendering process stipulates that the stakeholders should enable learning and the knowledge transfer that is, by necessity, required for preventive purposes. Semi-structured interviews with project leaders from the STA and respondents from two tendering contractors of maintenance were used to investigate attitudes to and the understanding of sharing experiences and knowledge about damage caused by weather extremes and the relevance of climate change adaptation in their field. The analysis suggests that most of the respondents’ experiences stay within their own organization, which creates parallel feedback loops, rather than becomes shared knowledge that could be used as lessons learned enhancing preventive work against future damage and loss. The analysis indicates imbalance in feedback of knowledge concerning weather extremes and their effects.

 Read the entire article here.

Two new Postdoc Positions at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University


CNDS is recruiting two postdocs who will focus on natural hazards at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University. 
One postdoc will work at the programme for Air, Water and Landscape Sciences, a second postdoc will work at the Geophysics Programme.
  • Postdoc in Natural hazards (Air, Water and Landscape Sciences)
  • Postdoc in Natural hazards (Geophysics)

The last application date is 15 April 2018.

CNDS Fellow Charles Parker's article published as research highlight in Nature Climate Change


Nature Climate Change has selected CNDS Fellow Charles Parker and Christer Karlsson’s Environmental Politics article,“The UN climate change negotiations and the role of the United States: assessing American leadership from Copenhagen to Paris”, as a Research Highlight in their new issue.

Together, Charles Parker and Christer Karlsson examine the role of American leadership in the UN climate negotiations that produced the 2015 Paris Agreement. First, the United States (US) climate goals are identified. Then, utilizing unique survey data collected at eight UN climate summits between 2008 and 2015, the extent to which the US was recognized as a leader by potential followers is investigated. Finally, the extent to which US goals are reflected in negotiation outcomes is evaluated. Recognition of the US as a leader varied over time, peaking at the UN climate meetings in Copenhagen and Paris, reflecting US leadership in shaping the outcomes of both meetings. Although the results reveal a divided leadership landscape in which the US must compete for leadership with other actors, such as the European Union and China, US leadership was crucial to the successful adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Literature Review: Managing Crises Collaboratively - Prospects and Problems


CNDS fellows Daniel Nohrstedt, Fredrik Bynander, and Charles Parker have published a literature review addressing the challenges and opportunities presented when collaboratively managing crises.

Effective interorganizational collaboration is a pivotal ingredient of any community or nation’s capacity to prepare for and bounce back from disruptive crisis events. The booming research field of collaborative public management (CPM) has been yielding important insights into such collaboration that as yet await transfer to the study of crisis management (CM). Also, we argue that the general CPM literature has not sufficiently addressed the distinctive collaboration challenges involved in coping with crises. This article bridges this twofold gap. Based on a systematic review of prior research in collaborative CM, this study identifies dominant areas of theoretical emphasis, methodological practices, and patterns of empirical enquiry. The article highlights areas where CPM research has potential to further inform the understanding of collaborative CM, including performance, success factors, managerial skills, and learning. The article then identifies five properties associated with CM—uncertainty, leadership, magnitude, costs, and urgency—which deserve further analysis to advance the understanding of the application of CPM principles and strategies. We conclude with outlining a research agenda and offering a set of testable propositions aimed at investigating the likelihood of effective collaboration in different types of crises and as expected in different CM paradigms.

Centre for Climate and Safety receives research funding for disaster modelling


The Knowledge Foundation (Stiftelsen för kunskaps- och kompetensutveckling) has allocated SEK 3.4 million to this interdisciplinary research project on disaster modeling, focusing on flood risks.

The project is being lead by the Centre for Climate and Safety at Karlstad University in close collaboration with four companies:

  • The Insurance Trade Association for Saved Value in Sweden (Försäkringsbranschens Restvärderäddning i Sverige AB) which is a subsidiary company of the Swedish Fire Protection Association (Svenska Brandskyddsföreningen)
  • JLT Re Northern Europe,
  • Customer-owned regional insurance company in Jönköping (Länsförsäkringar Jönköping)
  • Länsförsäkringar Alliance (Länsförsäkringar AB).

The project is supported by the municipality of Jönköping, as well as the global disaster modeling initiative the Oasis Loss Modelling Framework.

The project has three main objectives:

  1. Develop methods for disaster modelling, including descriptions of precipitation, exposure and potential damage.
  2. Develop a secure method for managing insurance data on flood damage in order to better understand the relationship between precipitation and damage.
  3. Establish an arena for cooperation between academia, insurance trade association, and authorities in the blue light sector in order to reduce disaster risk in Sweden on a long-term basis.

The overall work will provide a better picture of the incurred costs in the event of heavy precipitation, which is needed for effective long-term prevention work. The project will use Jönköping as a case study to conduct analyses of events and future risks. The project is divided into six work packages

  1. GIS platform - Jan Haas, Karlstad University
  2. RVR data - Thomas Gell
  3. Sand box methodological development -  Sven Halldin, Uppsala University
  4. International mapping - Lars Nyberg, Karlstad University
  5. Communication and networking - Emelie Hindersson, , Karlstad University
  6. Precipitation model

Contact person: Lars Nyberg,

CNDS commemorates World Water Day


Several CNDS fellows, who research various aspects of water, contributed to a research seminar commemorating World Water Day. Drawing upon their different academic disciplines and competencies, they were able to present various perspectives in an effort to provide a more comprehensive picture of the complex issue of water.

Ashok Swain (Professor of Peace and Conflict Research and the Director of Research School of International Water Cooperation, both at Uppsala University, as well as the UNESCO Chair of International Water Cooperation) discussed the dilemma of shared waters in terms of climate change, conflict and cooperation. Humans have a selfish interest in preserving the world's water sources, yet we are jeopardising this crucial resource. The "water footprints" we leave differ greatly between the various socio-economic groups. Professor Swain explained how the increase in water demand and the changing geopolitical situation are posing serious governance and water security challenges.

Drawing upon her ethnographic field study of relief and recovery in the case of Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy, Sara Bondesson (doctor of political science at the SEDU) described what can happen when an acute disaster relief situation transitions into a long-term recovery phase. Sara Bondesson revealed that the disruptive character of a disaster can actually create unexpected alliances and make room for people to use their creativity, but that disaster situations can also reinforce the vulnerability of previously marginalized groups.. Disaster vulnerability is not equally distributed, but it closely reflects the pre-existing inequalities in our societies that distribute risk unequally. Moreover, the same groups that are hit the hardest are often the ones with the least to say about how risk is produced or managed. Therefore, Sara Bondesson encourages researchers, practitioners and activists to pay more attention to the underlying factors for why this is so and to examine the kinds of political decisions (or non-decisions) that bring about this skewed order.

Korbinian Breinl (postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University) explained some of the aspects of modelling urban flooding and the interaction between society and hydrological extremes, mainly floods and droughts. Urban environments are rapidly growing and  thus modelling needs to consider both climate-driven and anthropogenic changes in the water balance in order to understand how hydrological processes are going to change in the future. Korbinian Breinl described the difficulties in using the available data and using it to analyse current patterns as wellas to predict future trends. In part, urban environments are challengeing for modellers since cities may look radically different from one place to another, making it nearly impossible to do comparitive research.

CNDS fellow discusses significance of water management in Dagens Nyheter


Together with seven other experts, CNDS fellow Christine Wamsler wrote an article for DN DEBATT raising the issue of the need to reform Swedish water governance and management in light of the newly proposed national climate adaptation strategy.

The debate article was initiated in response to the proposal from the Swedish Government to the Swedish Parliament on a national climate adaptation strategy (Proposition ”Nationell strategi för klimatanpassning”) which was submitted on 8 March 2018. This strategy builds upon existing governance of water management, which in the opinion of the authors to the DN debate article will actually contribute to more economic losses and damages from flooding as well as increased water scarcity.

Floods are often presented as a climate change issue or mentioned in discussions on the need for greater protection against extreme weather events. Yet other important causes of increasing floods are often forgotten; for example, how we use the land and where we build human structures. Unfortunately, there are major problems with water management today, and consequently this sometimes results in the fact that new problems are created instead of prevented. 

The authors also argue that Swedish climate change adaptation is focusing too much on local and ”hard” solutions. Another problem they identify is that the municipalities do not have sufficient support in terms of norms and goals. Therefore, they argue for reform. In efforts to address such problems, the experts suggest a number of concrete suggestions for tackling some of the obstacles, including increased collaboration between key actors, creating more space for water in urban landscapes, and strengthening the coordinating governance capacity at the national level.

Read the entire debate article in Swedish here

Job Opportunity: Postdoctoral Researcher at Karlstad University


Karlstad University has announced a position as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Risk and Environmental Studies with specialisation in catastrophe modelling. 

Last application date is 1 September 2018. More information here.

Post-doc at SEDU


Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Science with a specialisation in crisis management and international cooperation, emphasis on disaster risk reducation and natural hazards, Swedish Defence University 

Application deadline: CLOSED

Job Opportunity: Postdoctoral Researcher at Swedish Defence University


The Swedish Defence University has announced a position as a Postdoctoral Researcher with a specialisation in crisis management and international cooperation, with extra an emphasis on disaster risk reducation and natural hazards.

Last application date is 31 August 2018. More information here.

CNDS Fellows reveal adaptive human settlements after flood events


CNDS Fellows Johanna Mård and Giuliano Di Baldassare used satellite nighttime light data to track settlement over time and following flood events. Results show an increasing resettlement further away from rivers which can be understood as climate adaptation. Taking the degree of flood protection measures into account, the satellite nighttime light data reveals that human settlements with access to flood protection measures remain in closer proximity to rivers and rely on these structural measures, while settlements without access to flood protection measures move further away.

More information can be found in the press release by Uppsala University and in a newspaper article by Upsala Nya Tidning (in Swedish).

Read the full article:

Johanna Mård, Giuliano Di Baldassarre and Maurizio Mazzoleni (2018) Nighttime light data reveal how flood protection shapes human proximity to rivers, Science Advances.

CNDS fellows comment on 2018 forest fires in Swedish newspaper


CNDS fellows Helena Hermansson and Frederike Albrecht commented on the 2018 forest fires in Sweden in the newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning. They highlighted how crucial the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was for international collaboration and identified several improvements since the 2014 forest fire in Västmanland while also pointing out remaining challenges for the future.

Thank you for participating in the CNDS & EGU Summer Research School 2018


We would like to thank everyone for their contribution to this year's summer school. The lecturers contributed with inspiring and informative talks. The participants worked on and presented original research proposals. Tweets from participants and lecturers during the whole event can be found here: #CNDSsummer.

Participants' group picture

CNDS Director participates in panel discussion on the recent floods in Kerala, India


CNDS Director Giuliano Di Baldassarre participated in a panel discussion on the recent floods in Kerala, India, on Friday, 31 August. Participants in the panel were among others Prof. Ashok Swain (Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University) and Pyry Niemi (Member of the Swedish Parliament). 

Discussion meeting on Flood in Kerala, India at ⁦@UU_University⁩ with ⁦@CNDS_Sweden⁩ Director ⁦@g_dibaldassarre⁩ & Member of Swedish Parliament ⁦⁦@pyryniemi⁩

— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) 31 August 2018

Program for Forum om Natural Hazards and Disasters, 15 November in Karlstad 


More information about the program and registration available here  The registration deadline has been extended to 6 November.

Call for panel proposals - Northern European Conference on Emergency and Disaster Studies 2019


The 4th Northern European Conference on Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS) 2019 will be organized by the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology and the Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science on 10–12 June 2019 in Uppsala.

The theme of the conference is 'Nature, Society and Scale' and will include nterdisciplinary panels that reflect threshold concepts in relation to risk, disasters, crises and emergencies as well as the theoretical and methodological implications of the different disciplinary approaches, interventions, and contexts.

The call for panel proposals seeks themes that discuss threshold concepts to topics such as disaster risk reduction, community response, crisis communication and social media, resilience, crisis governance, social networks, humanitarian aid, and disaster tales and popular culture.

Please submit your panel proposal here  before 1 December 2018.

Monika Rystedt Nyman defends her doctoral thesis


13:00- 15:00 - 6 November 2018, Karlstad University

Rydstedt Nyman, Monika (2018) Organizational Lessons Learned: Natural Hazards Affecting Critical Infrastructure. ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7065-3491

Natural Hazards Day - CNDS workshop commemorating the Vajont Dam disaster


The event was co-organized by the Department of Earth Sciences and the Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science (CNDS), and it was well attended with more than 50 participants. The workshop focused on multi-hazards, compound events and cascading effects, which are gaining increasing attention in the natural hazards community.

After some welcoming words and a brief introduction by Giuliano Di Baldassarre (CNDS director), two invited speakers delivered solicited talks. Luigia Brandimarte (KTH) presented the cascade of human and physical factors that characterized the Vajont Dam disaster.

Luigia Brandimarte presenting

Photo of Luigia Brandimarte (KTH)

Her presentation was followed by a talk by Patrick Bachélery (Clermont Auvergne University, France) about volcanic hazards and cascading effects in France and its overseas territories.

Patrick Bachélery presenting

Photo of Patrick Bachélery

The second part of the workshop was dedicated to early career scientists. Paolo De Luca (Loughborough University, UK) illustrated the interdependencies between floods, storms and droughts in Great Britain, while Marleen de Ruiter (VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands) showed how consecutive disasters (e.g. flooding after an earthquake) affect losses and the post-disaster recovery process. Lastly, two recently recruited postdocs at the Department of Earth Sciences concluded the workshop. Maurizio Mazzoleni presented cascading effects linked with levee failures, Braden Walsh showed the use of active source data to determine the dynamics of the 13 October 2012 Te Maari, New Zealand breakout lahar and its implications on mass flow monitoring.

The workshop was concluded with some words about the increasing relevance of multi-hazards, compound events and cascading effects and mingling during refreshments.

text and photos: Giuliano Di Baldassarre

New CNDS PhD graduate


On 26 October, CNDSer Jenni Koivisto successfully defended her doctoral dissertation "Navigating in the Midst of Uncertainties – Challenges in Disaster Risk Governance in Mozambique" at Karlstad University. Per Becker, from the Faculty of Engineering LTH at Lund University, served as the opponent during the defence.

Thanks for the great turn-out at the 2018 Forum on Natural Hazards and Disasters!


This year's event, hosted by the Centre for Climate and Safety in Karlstad,  focused on how we can be better at utilizing data, research and experiences in our efforts to deal with the damages and losses associated with disasters.

New article on the effectiveness of national and EU-level civil protection systems: evidence from 17 member states


This article utilizes survey data from civil protection agencies in 17 EU member states to shed light on the factors that promote national and EU-level effectiveness in civil protection and crisis management. The study found both the extent to which a national civil protection agency is organized hierarchically and adheres to a rule governed structure and the extent to which the agency scores highly with regards to a trust-based, professional culture are significantly related to the degree to which civil protection practitioners will value national and EU-level civil protection institutions. 

Charles F. Parker, Thomas Persson & Sten Widmalm (2018): The effectiveness of national and EU-level civil protection systems: evidence from 17 member states, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2018.1523219 

The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs


An international team of drought scientists show that while many dams and reservoirs are built, or expanded, to alleviate droughts and water shortages, they can paradoxically contribute to make them worse. The study is published in Nature Sustainability. The research team behind the new study was led by professor Giuliano Di Baldassarre, Director of CNDS.

The Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead, USA.
The Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead, USA. Credit: Michelangelo Brandimarte

Building dams and reservoirs is one of the most common approaches to cope with drought and water shortage. The aim is straightforward: reservoirs can store water during wet periods, and then release it during dry periods. As such, they can stabilize water availability, thereby satisfying water demand and alleviating water shortage. The paper shows that increasing reservoir storage capacity can also lead to unintended effects in the long term, and, paradoxically, worsen water shortage.

The authors argue that there are two counterintuitive phenomena that should be considered when expanding or planning reservoirs: the supply-demand cycle and the reservoir effect.

The supply-demand cycle describes cases where increasing water supply leads to higher water demand, which can quickly offset the initial benefits of reservoirs. These cycles can be seen as a rebound effect, also known in environmental economics as Jevon’s paradox: as more water is available, water consumption tends to increase. This can result in a vicious cycle: a new water shortage can be addressed by further expansion of reservoir storage to increase (again) water availability, which enables more water consumption, until the next shortage... As such, the supply-demand cycle can trigger an accelerating spiral towards unsustainable exploitation of water resources and environmental degradation.

The reservoir effect describes cases where over-reliance on reservoirs increases the potential damage caused by drought and water shortage. The expansion of reservoirs often reduces incentives for preparedness and adaptive actions, thus increasing the negative impacts of water shortage. Moreover, extended periods of abundant water supply, supported by reservoirs, can generate higher dependence on water resources, which in turn increases social vulnerability and economic damage when water shortage eventually occurs.

The new study also provides policy implications. The authors argue that attempts to increase water supply to cope with growing water demand, which is fueled by the increase in supply, is unsustainable. Hence, they suggest less reliance on large water infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs, and more efforts in water conservation measures. In other words, coping with drought and water shortage by reducing water consumption, rather than (fueling consumption by) increasing water supply. While many water experts would agree with this general recommendation, numerous dams and reservoirs are still being built or proposed in many places around the world.

Lastly, the authors posit that the notion that "we must increase water availability to satisfy a growing water demand" remains pervasive because there are major knowledge gaps in the study of the dynamics generated by the interplay of water, society and infrastructure. Thus, they propose an interdisciplinary research agenda to unravel the long-term effects (including the unintended consequences) of reservoirs, and other types of water infrastructure, on the spatiotemporal distribution of both water availability and demand.

Di Baldassarre, G., Wanders, N., AghaKouchak, A., Kuil, L., Rangecroft, S., Veldkamp, T.I.E., Garcia, M., van Oel, P.R., Breinl, K., and Van Loon A.F. (2018). Water shortages worsened by reservoir effects. Nature Sustainability, in press.

For more information please contact: Giuliano Di Baldassarre, professor at the Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, tel: + 46 18-471 7162, email:

Text and photo from a press release issued by Uppsala University.

Water shortage due to storage? 


While many dams and reservoirs aim to alleviate droughts and water shortages, they can paradoxically make them worse.

San Luis reservoir in California, USA
San Luis reservoir in California, USA. Photo Credit: Amir AghaKouchak

Giuliano Di Baldassarre shares his "behind the scene" experiences  of the writing process the article "Water shortages worsened by reservoir effects" published in Nature Sustainability.

Last modified: 2021-08-09