When water becomes a threat : Risk assessment and risk management plans for floods and drinking water in Swedish practice

Abstract: Water is an essential but vulnerable resource. A shortage of good quality drinking water is a threat to human health and society as a whole. Abundance of water in the form of floods can also be a serious threat which can have consequences for the drinking water supply. To reduce these risks there is a need for systematic risk reduction. In the last decades a risk management approach has been developed in the management of both flood and drinking water risks. This means that a reactive, ad hoc management is being replaced by a more proactive and systematic approach where risks are analysed and evaluated as a basis for prioritising counter-measures. The complex nature of water issues has also made it evident that there is a need for a holistic view of the management, involving a variety of actors and sectors. An integrated management approach to floods and water resources has emerged.This thesis aims to examine how local level risk management, especially risk assessments, of floods and drinking water supply have been or can be performed in practice in Sweden. The existing practices have been characterised in relation to current risk management frameworks. Furthermore, the thesis aims to investigate how the effects of flood on drinking water supply have been considered in risk assessment methods and in flood risk management plans, as well as whether flood and drinking water risks have been considered in an integrated manner. The studies are based on interviews with flood risk managers in Swedish municipalities and Swedish water producers as well as on document studies of risk assessment methods and flood risk management plans.There are large variations between different municipalities and water producers in how, and to what extent, risk assessments have been performed. Some have performed very little, if any, risk assessment while others have worked systematically. The tools used are often those that are promoted by national agencies and are often less advanced than those described in the literature. The risk assessments do not always cover all relevant aspects of the risk and few actors have discussed an acceptable risk level. Flood risk assessments focus mostly on the exposure of objects to flood and investigate the consequences of such an exposure only to a limited extent. The incomplete risk assessments may result in a biased view of the risk which in turn can lead to poor decision-making. The theoretical knowledge about risk management is in many cases low and there is still often a practical approach. Strategic and holistic approaches are mostly lacking.The consequences of flood on drinking water supply are not known in detail and are not considered in detail in risk assessments commonly used in Sweden. There is an awareness of the need to coordinate the management of flood and water resources. However, despite the good intentions regarding integration, there are few signs in the risk assessments and risk management plans that integration is actually occurring.Both the risk management approach and integrated management have started to be implemented in Swedish flood and drinking water risk management. It is however on a basic level and it is still a long way to go. Further guidance and knowledge about risk management as well as commitment from and collaboration among all actors concerned is needed to make this development possible.