Research program and projects

Reseach program

In the department of Water and Climate Risk, explicit attention is given to the interaction between the hydrological and climate systems, and how these interactions lead to risk to society, the economy, and the environment. The focus is on water and climate extremes such as floods and droughts, to estimate impacts from these extremes on various economic sectors, and to examine which strategies can be developed to reduce impacts and risk. This requires the mapping of climate and water-related hazards, as well as the exposure of people and assets and their vulnerability, and estimating associated costs to reduce risk. Risk management and risk transfer strategies are evaluated in the context of both developed and developing countries. Model simulations, data processing, data assimilation and the integration of economic instruments, such as insurance, are key scientific strengths of the department. 

The department’s research operates along four main research lines:

Global Water and Climate Risk
Risk Modelling and e-Science
Risk-Based Decision Making and Adaptation
Climate Modelling and Extreme Events

Research lines and application themes:
The four research lines (vertical bars) of the department of water and climate risk and example of application areas (horizontal bars)


Our research projects focus on how society can manage water and climate risk across different spatial scales, from local to global. Stakeholder involvement is key to developing scientific methods and data that actually work in practice. A participatory process is often leading in the design of our research. Examples of this in our projects at different scales include

  1. Local water storage: together with governmental organisations, NGOs en local universities, we have developed methods in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Peru to develop and evaluate the effects of community-based ‘sand dams’ to store water to mitigate drought impacts, while minimising loss to evaporation (

  2. Flood management in cities: Our methods on flood risk modelling and management have been applied to many global cities, such as New York City, Rotterdam, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta. Prof. Jeroen Aerts is scientific director of the Connecting Delta Citiesinitiative, as part of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

  3. River basins: we currently work in the rivers Rhine and Meuse, on several issues related to flood management. We furthermore work in global river basins, and specifically in the Tana basin in Kenya, Zambezi, Niger, Ganges and Mekong.

  4. Global water risk: we have developed a state-of-the-art global flood risk model, GLOFRIS, which is has been used for flood risk assessments with multiple international stakeholders (World Bank, the Global Dialogue Project of OECD and GWP, UN-Habitat, World Resources Institute). Our flood risk models are being used to assess the influence of both climate (change) and variability on risk. We are developing methods to assess drought risk at the global scale.