First article published

My first article was recently published in the journal Water. I wrote this article together with 12 co-authors in our research project Sustainable Urban Flood Management (SUrF) and it gave me new insights in our different fields of research. We represent nine different affiliations and my job was to coordinate the writing process and of course to write my own parts. It is wonderful to work with this group of researchers. Thanks to all of you for your contributions!

Article: Sörensen, Johanna, et al. “Re-Thinking Urban Flood Management—Time for a Regime Shift.” Water 8.8 (2016): 332.

The article can be found here: The article is freely available online.


Urban flooding is of growing concern due to increasing densification of urban areas, changes in land use, and climate change. The traditional engineering approach to flooding is designing single-purpose drainage systems, dams, and levees. These methods, however, are known to increase the long-term flood risk and harm the riverine ecosystems in urban as well as rural areas. In the present paper, we depart from resilience theory and suggest a concept to improve urban flood resilience. We identify areas where contemporary challenges call for improved collaborative urban flood management. The concept emphasizes resiliency and achieved synergy between increased capacity to handle stormwater runoff and improved experiential and functional quality of the urban environments. We identify research needs as well as experiments for improved sustainable and resilient stormwater management namely, flexibility of stormwater systems, energy use reduction, efficient land use, priority of transport and socioeconomic nexus, climate change impact, securing critical infrastructure, and resolving questions regarding responsibilities.

Flooding in Copenhagen 31st of August 2014 – Taxi




Before and after – it takes a flood to understand

Pluvial flood in Copenhagen August 2014

Pluvial flood in Copenhagen August 2014

When I started my PhD study in 2012, everyone said: I see, you live in Copenhagen – over there floods are of great interest. Copenhagen was flooded in August 2010, July 2011 and once more in August 2011. My PhD topic (urban flooding in a changing climate) was of course partly inspired by these three floods, but also by the need to create better cities in the future. We need greener cities and more resilient stormwater systems. This was in 2012 and the interest of flooding in Sweden was rather weak.

Then, in 2014, the rain fell. After a few hours of heavy rainfall, floods where suddenly on everyone lips. Malmö was hit by a costly and frightening flood event. Now people had their own experience of what a flood could be. It is not any longer a problem “over there”, in Copenhagen. It takes only 35 minutes to go from central Copenhagen to Malmö. Nevertheless, it took the flood risk awareness more than three years to cross the bridge.

Cars flooded in Copenhagen 2014

Cars flooded in Copenhagen 2014

Gothenburg have seen similar flood events and they seem to be aware of the problem. During a conference in Gothenburg, someone discussed why the national authorities in Sweden still seems so unaware of the pluvial flood risk. As this person mentioned: “We have still not seen a major flood event in a bigger Swedish city – read: Stockholm!” I guess this summarises the problem with risk awareness. It is unbelievable hard to understand the risk of flooding before you have seen one yourself in your own town.

Floods in Malmö, Sweden

On the 31st of august, heavy rainfall hit Malmö in southern Sweden. The city has never before seen such volumes of water in the streets, basements and backyards – at least not in modern time. At Lund University, we decided to take a closer look at the flood event. We try to understand how all the green spaces and open stormwater solutions, that Malmö city is well known for, did affect this flood event. The open stormwater systems in Malmö were not specifically designed to prevent from flooding, but this could be an important, positive side effect of the systems.

My student, Joanna Theland, have contacted the utility company (VA Syd), insurance companies and house owners in Malmö, to collect information about consequences of the flooding. Everyone have been very helpful and we have had interesting conversations with both VA Syd, Länsförsäkringar Skåne (an insurance company) and others about this flood event and flooding in general. I would say that Swedish authorities are getting more and more focused on floods and flood prevention. We are going from an idea that floods are a natural catastrophe that we only can act upon after the disaster already has happened, to a more proactive view were we see possibilities to prevent areas, important buildings, as well as our own basement from flooding. There is a great interest in our study and in how to build cities in a better way in the future.

Joanna Theland will present the results from this study in March. After this, I will continue with more analyses. One idea is to compare the situation in Malmö with other cities that have seen recent flood events. One might be Helsingborg, as my contacts there (at NSVA) have been very helpful.

The photos beneath are all from Copenhagen. The same rainfall as in Malmö, on the 31st of august 2014, stroke Copenhagen and I took a trip with my bike to document some of the consequences in the city.

Radical redesign of our cities will lower the flood risk – II of IV, turn the dikes

Conventional dike in Gretna, Mississippi. Photo:

Conventional dike in Gretna, Mississippi.
Photo: Infrogmation

Turn flood dikes perpendicular to the coast, so they point at the sea. Stop to fight against the nature and let nature rule your city. This was the radical message when Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha visited Malmö in March 2014. The new ideas are now discussed among city planners and architects.

There is a saying that ‘there are two kinds of dikes – the ones that did break down and the ones that will break down in the future’. We design dikes with standards that should lower the risk of failure and we choose a safety level for the dike. But, there is always a limit for the construction. One day the dike will break down or water will overtop it during an extreme storm. The clear message from Mathur and da Cunha is that we should stop to fight the nature with dikes.

Their idea is to turn the dikes or levees around and use them for evacuation when a flood comes. On top of the levee buildings could be constructed. Here is a good and safe place for vulnerable buildings, but also for schools. During a flood – because flood will come, these buildings will be used as evacuation centre.

Rising sea water level will flood cities

In the future, we will see higher sea water level due to climate change. Mathur and da Cunha claims that the future sea level rise challenge our understanding of the sea. We need to rethink the urban design fundamentally, as the sea will eat a lot of urban areas along the coast lines. It is not possible to compete with nature.

As the city will be flooded more often with the new turn-around dikes, people will get more aware of the risk and therefore construct the city in a smarter and less risky way. This awareness contributes to flood resilience for the city.

Nature is not like engineering

Sometimes people claim that we should ‘construct natural dikes’. This is an engineering approach to nature, says Mathur and da Cunha. The nature works in systems and not in functions. In Norfolk (USA), where they currently are working with the sea level rise problem, the military base is dominating and the military way of thinking is wide-spread: Conquer the fronts. Conquer the land from east to west. This thinking also transfers to the cities fight against the rising sea. Mathur and da Cunha explained how they work with this idea on conquering and that they could see a shift in people’s idea when they gave workshops about it. In their workshop people would learn how natural systems could be used in an effective way for protection. We should work together with nature and see the sea as a friend, they say. It is time to stop fight against nature.

Flood hazard maps available for public in Denmark

From today the flood hazard map of Denmark is available for public. It has been developed by Miljøministeriet (Danish Ministry of the Environment) in cooperation with Forsikring & Pension (The Danish Insurance Association) and can be downloaded or viewed online at The digital elevation model for Denmark has been available for a while and now the Danish Ministry of the Environment has chosen to give Danish municipalities this valuable planning tool.

How can cities be built in a resilient and sustainable way?

In my reaserch I am focusing on urban storm water and flooding in cities. How can cities be built in a resilient and sustainable way? Due to the uncertainty of effects of climate changes in addition to the long lifetime for storm water solutions (up to 100 years), the solutions need to be adaptable to the future scenario with a long perspective. Furthermore, how can storm water solutions be a part of sustainable city development? I will try to look in to these issues during my five years at Lund University.

If you have any question you want to discuss with me or good ideas for research, you are very welcome to contact me. I would love to hear from you!

My e-mail address is