Denmark: a living lab for water solutions

Copenhagen was recently chosen by the IWA to host the World Water Congress and Exhibition 2020 and Eva Kjer Hansen, Minister for the Environment and Food, explains the Danish approach to climate change adaptation

We are all looking forward to welcoming everybody to Copenhagen in 2020 for the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition. The theme of the Congress will be Water for Smart Liveable Cities, which fits perfectly with our ambitions to create the best water solutions in the world.

When people visit Copenhagen, one of the first things they notice is that the tap water tastes surprisingly good. And when they visit the harbour swimming baths in the middle of our capital, they can see for themselves just how good the water quality is. It is a remarkable achievement. In just one decade, the Copenhagen Harbour area has been transformed from a busy industrial port to a vibrant, cultural and social centre of the city, where people can swim and enjoy the long summer evenings by the waterfront. This transformation was made possible by modernising the city’s sewage system, adopting a cleaning programme and diverting rainwater, which resulted in an improvement of the water quality to such an extent that the City of Copenhagen was able to open the first public harbour bath in 2002.
Many new infrastructure projects in Copenhagen are designed to protect the city against cloudbursts and severe flooding, and the city has developed an ambitious climate change adaptation plan. A cloudburst management plan from 2012 is an offshoot of the adaptation plan. The plans outline decisive steps in order to protect the capital against high-intensity rain, and detailed flood mapping and risk analysis have been carried out. The plans will be adopted in 2020, but striking projects can already be viewed all over the city. Even in the densely built-up areas of central Copenhagen, one can see reopened streams, new canals, green spaces, roads with extra high curb stones to lead the pluvial flood water into certain areas and in some cases directly to the sea.
In Copenhagen, one can walk along Denmark’s first water-absorbing road. An easy way to get around is by catching a ride on the Metro with absolutely no risk of getting your feet wet, as the Copenhagen Metro is designed to endure massive cloudburst and storm waterevents. In this way, 56 million passengers every year are offered protection.

Our water utilities supply the population with tap water, which is based entirely on groundwater of the highest quality

The Danish approach to climate change adaptation is characterised by a high level of synergy, where both cloud burst resilience and recreational aims are taken into consideration. We take pride in developing robust solutions due to the close cooperation between local authorities, water companies and citizens. Our water utilities supply the population with tap water, which is based entirely on groundwater of the highest quality.
Danish water utilities have some of the world’s lowest water loss due to efficient water leakage management. We have recently established an ambitious lighthouse project in greater Copenhagen that will enable us to present a state-of-the-art water leakage management system by 2020.
The Danish government works together with utilities and companies to develop a roadmap for an energy and CO2-neutral water and wastewater utility sector in 2020. The roadmap will ensure that citizens and companies receive lower prices for water and wastewater treatment, while ensuring better resource recovery at the same time. In the future, we may have to rename wastewater as resource water but the future is already in Denmark: utility plants produce energy and phosphorus.
I hope that you will all enjoy reading about Copenhagen’s Masterplan for storm water management in this issue of The Source, and I hope you will be able to visit Denmark, as we would be delighted to be able to inspire you regarding effective water solutions. We look forward to presenting our water solutions and meeting you all at the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in 2020.