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Regional Climate Change and Adaptation: The Alps facing the challenge of changing water resources


Objectives and Focus 

The main objectives of the EEA/ETC-Study “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in the European Alps: Focus Water Resources” are to gain some insights in the vulnerability of the Alps and surrounding European regions with regard to the impacts of climate change, focussing on water resources and specific water sensitive regions in the Alps, to assess possible needs, constraints and opportunities for adaptation to the adverse impacts of climate change resources.

The regional case studies conducted in the context of the EEA/ETC-Study focus on communities, regions and sectors

  • that are specifically exposed to / affected by water resources problems (shortages, quality) in the European Alps or
  • in which adaptation activities to these water resources problems have already been carried out or planned.

The Canton of Valais is selected as one of the case studies for the EEA/ETC Study because it is one of the most climate sensitive areas in the Alps.

Research Questions

The regional case studies conducted in the context of the EEA/ETC-Study try to answer the following main questions.

  • What specific water resource problems have existed in the past in the region and have to be expected from climate change in the future?
  • Which adaptation activities on water resources problems (shortages, quality) – originating from climate change or other developments – have already been carried out within the region?
  • What are the experiences from these adaptation activities? What are potential lessons learned for other regions from the adaptation experiences?
  • Which adaptation gaps exist? What further activities are needed for adaptation to future water resource problems due to climate change in the Alps?

This case study is based on a literature review and 14 guideline-based interviews with stakeholders from different sectors (energy and hydropower, environment, agriculture, forestry, tourism, spatial planning and natural hazards), conducted in September and October 2008.

Background EEA/ETC Study

The EEA/ETC Study "Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in the European Alps: Focus Water Resources" aims at providing added value compared to the recent OECD-Study "Climate Change in the European Alps - Adapting Winter Tourism and Natural Hazards Management" by focussing on water resources, a topic only marginally addressed by the OECD-Study. In addition, this study focuses on the link to the EEA-Strategy on adaptation. Concerning the strategy this study puts emphasis on the need for analysing and implementing a strong and effective stakeholderdialogue in order to link EEA with regions. It considers especially those tasks mentioned by the European Commission's Green Paper on Adaptation ("Adapting to Climate Change in Europe - Options for EU Action") being necessary for implementation of adaptation action on the ground. Additionally it picks up the task descriptions coming from the IPCC 4th assessment report.

The EEA/ETC-Study is conducted by the Federal Environment Agency UBA Germany, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research PIK, the Federal Environment Agency UBA Austria, the European Academy Bolzano EURAC, the Environmental Agency of Slovenia, the Mountain Institute at the University of Savoy (F) and WSL, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Alpine Convention, Innsbruck. 



The results of the EEA/ETC study are published as a Technical Report by the European Environment Agency.

  • EEA Website (including documents, maps and graphs for download) 
  • EEA Technical Report [PDF
  • EEA Technical Report, Summary [PDF]


Case Study Valais 

  • The results of the case study Valais are published as chapter 5.3 (pp. 71-75) in the EEA Technical Report. [PDF]  
  • Case study results also got published at the 10th Swiss Global Change Day, Bern, 31 March 2009, and won a poster award in the category IHDP (Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change). [PDF]