About the Project

The project DIRT-X addresses the question of how the changing climate and socioeconomic conditions influences water reservoirs and the services they provide to different economic sectors.

Thousands of large and smaller dams in Europe provide important but vulnerable services such as hydropower generation, drinking water supply, irrigation, flood protection, and recreation. These services are threatened by changing climate and socioeconomic conditions through changes in the hydrological process and potentially increasing erosion and sedimentation of reservoirs. The project DIRT-X addresses the question of how the changing climate and socioeconomic conditions influence water reservoirs and the services they provide to different economic sectors through integration of existing climate services (Copernicus Climate Change Service Climate Data Store, CDS, and Toolbox), Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), impact models, and close cooperation with stakeholders from the relevant sectors.

DIRT-X directly addresses cross-sectoral and cross-scale aspects of the climate change impacts and integration of biophysical climate impact models with economic models (Theme 1 and Theme 2 of the call). We analyse hydrological and hydromorphological processes across spatial scales (from local through regional to global) and temporal scales (from sub-daily through daily, intra- and inter-annual, to long term) under the current and future climate and socioeconomics in order to increase the quality, reliability, and usability of hydrologic models for climate services. By combining local scale analyses with regional and global scale analyses of hydrological processes and relevant socio-economic developments we achieve better understanding and quantification of the impacts and uncertainties inherent in climate impact assessments, especially as they relate to scale and resolution. 

CIIs developed in this project are derived from existing climate services (CDS) based on the latest Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP AR5) and target multiple sectors that are using or are affected by reservoirs and their operation.

A special focus is given to energy sector. Hydropower already provides about 14% of the energy production in EU-28 with very high shares in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Austria. Services of the water reservoirs to the energy sector and water sector will become even more important with the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) #7 “Affordable and clean energy” and #6 “Clean water and sanitation”. The integration of hydrological process modelling with economic models assessing water stress, cross-sectoral conflicts, and energy system enables investigation into the how hydrologic impacts are best translated into economic consequences and what are the implications of climate impacts within these systems. Furthermore, the project will improve models to assess interdependencies and economic value of water usage across sectors and their response to changes in runoff and water storage volumes. Theme 3 is supported indirectly through the evaluation of socioeconomic scenarios, incorporating SSPs and targeted model experiments and comparison of the outcomes with the long-term objectives in the Paris Agreement.

DIRT-X Concept

More specifically, our main objectives are:

  • To improve our understanding of the dynamics of catchment processes and their response to changing climate and socioeconomic conditions focusing on runoff, sediment generation, and sediment transport at different spatial and temporal scales with a goal to improve methods and models used in hydrological impact analyses and to increase their quality, credibility, and usability;
  • To improve our understanding of mutual interactions between water reservoirs and the economic sectors to which they provide essential services and how they may change due to climate change and socio-economic developments with a goal to improve economic impact models;
  • To increase stakeholders awareness of the upcoming challenges as possible consequences of climate change through their involvement in local case studies and dissemination events;
  • And to develop Climate Impact Indicators (CIIs) relevant to stakeholders that rely or are  affected by reservoir operations and to identify drivers that provide desired response at the inflow to the reservoir in order to obtain appropriate and sustainable management strategies.

The DIRT-X consortium benefits from a combined knowledge and experiences of six partners with different expertise and background. The combined pool includes experts in climate models and climate services (SMHI), hydrology and glaciology (LUH), through bedload and suspended sediment transport (UIBK, NTNU), hydromorphological modelling (NTNU), reservoir sedimentation and management (USTUTT), large scale modelling (SMHI), coastal zone impacts (SMHI), to energy and economic assessment modelling (UU). The expertise is applied in three local case studies where multiple partners interact within each case study to comprehensively assess dominant processes that affect the study area’s response to changing climate and socioeconomics. In addition, physical and socioeconomic processes and their interactions are evaluated at a pan-European scale with hydrologic and economic models in a first European-level application where such models exchange information e.g. on water availability, water use, energy needs and production at a fine temporal resolution.
DIRT-X complements existing efforts in the consortium and a wider community by incorporating CIIs, new climate data initiatives, and comprehensive framework of SSPs and Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) that is becoming increasingly accepted in scientific and policymaking communities. The DIRT-X consortium partners are and have been involved in similar activities, working with local, regional, national, and international stakeholders to assess climate and socioeconomic impacts within their expertise. Stakeholders are key participants in this project and support the project goals.

 Close contact with stakeholders will be maintained throughout the project in agile approach by providing preliminary results regularly in order to obtain feedback as well as enable mutual learning. Water, sediments, and reservoirs provide essential services in our society and at the same time can impact society in many ways. Increased and more frequent peaks can lead to flooding and infrastructure damages, flooding and high soil erosion can reduce food security, and excess sediment can significantly decrease reservoir storages and impact their intended function. Reservoirs can provide flood protection, safe storage of drinking water, flexibility to generate and store energy, but also affect downstream environment and communities for example through alteration of the flow regime or trapping of sediment and other material behind the dam. The entrapment can lead to a reduction in the available reservoir storage volume and accumulation of harmful substances with resulting water quality degradation, diminishing the value of the societal investments.
It is thus imperative that the impacts of changing conditions on reservoir functions are thoroughly investigated in a way that will (i) increase the scientific understanding of processes and interactions, (ii) provide means to interpret the projected impact (CIIs) through identification of factors across impact models, scales, and sectors that can affect the CIIs determination, and (iii) empower stakeholders, policy makers, managers, and governments through relevant information on expected changes.