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Baltic Sea Day: Water sector equipped with knowledge and adapted to climate change

26 March, 2021 - 14:02

The XXI International Environmental Forum "Baltic Sea Day" was organized on 23-24 March 2021 in Saint Petersburg, and streamed online for everyone to watch. In the framework of the forum, BSR WATER platform co-organized sessions to discuss adapting the region’s water sector to the climate change and to present platform’s achievements and good practices.

The forum attracted ca. 400 participants attending the event, with only the BSR WATER sessions receiving over 1000 viewers who joined in the live or recorded format. Joinly, experts and scientists, local, regional and national authorities, representatives of international organizations and NGOs, discussed the topical regional issues: implementation and the update of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and regional goals until 2030.

After the plenary session and the panel discussion focused on the Baltic Sea Action Plan, the expert sessions followed introducing the topics of hazardous substances, maritime spatial planning, river basin management, climate change adaptation, industrial symbiosis, environmentally friendly agriculture, as well as the improving of the water sector, emphasized at the BSR WATER stakeholders workshop.

Increasing resilience of the Baltic Sea to climate change

The session was moderated by Jannica Haldin, HELCOM, who opened it by setting up the context for the discussion. She pointed out that the climate change is evident: the water temperature is rising, the ice extent has decreased, and the annual precipitation has increased in the region. These are the examples of direct climate change effect, but the whole system is complex with multiple environmental pressures affecting the ecosystem.

How can the cities adapt their infrastructures and management practices to be prepared for the future? Climate change predictions, regional recommendations and local practices were presented focusing on the water aspects of the adaptation.

Many cities in BSR already face climate change-related challenges. Within the work on developing the Sustainability Action Programme 2022–2030, Mariia Andreeva from the Union of the Baltic Cities Sustainable Cities Commission presented the identified signals, goals and ambitions set by the network’s member cities for the current decade. BSR WATER platform, led by UBC SCC, is one of the instruments allowing to make the shift and turn the set ambitions into the reality.

One part of the platform’s work is focused on the sustainable stormwater management, being developed by the platform partner the City of Riga, with long experience in this topic locally and in the international project iWater. Jurijs Kondratenko presented the recommendations for the sustainable stormwater management developed in the platform based on the surveys and interviews with 25 BSR cities.

Several of the contributed cities followed, reflecting on the recommendations and their adaptability for the local context, as well as highlighting local practices for the flood protection, better adapted water disposal systems, stormwater actions to increase climate change resilience.

Smart water management: regional strategies, best practices and expertise exchange from the BSR WATER platform

The BSR WATER platform cooperates across the wide stakeholder range: partners in the platform, whole transnational projects contributing to the platform development, and many projects and initiatives beyond. The accumulated knowledge is then streamed to HELCOM for the joint development of the regional recommendations on nutrient recycling and handling of hazardous substances, while the tested practices are shared online for the region to learn, pilot and launch them locally.

The workshop opened with the welcoming words from Natalia Tretiakova, Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Björn Grönholm, UBC Sustainable Cities Commission, and Elena Kolosova, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme.

The first part of the workshop presented two BSR WATER outputs that are currently being finalized: Pallet of solutions for nutrient recycling and micropollutants in sewage waters, presented by Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, HELCOM, and the Water-Sludge-Energy Model for cooperation, introduced by Markus Raudkivi, University of Tartu. Based on the presentations that highlighted the circular potential and opportunities for the BSR water sector, the expert discussion opened with invited experts from European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform, Aarhus water utility, Vodokanal of Saint Petersburg, and Aquacare company providing a nutrient recycling solution, - to formulate what is needed for their successful implementation.

The experts emphasized several points required for unlocking and regionally taking up the nutrient recycling and cooperation between the water, sludge and energy sectors:

  • We need the joint action, with policy makers on our side;
  • Before launching large investments, solutions need to be piloted;
  • It is crucial to ensure the legislative, national, financial support;
  • The dialogue between the sides of cooperation has to be constantly maintained.

The second part of the session introduced the solutions: invited experts presented local practices and solutions for smart water management and operation that are published on the Baltic Smart Water Hub portal. Presentations covered all water areas, bringing 2-3 cases from each, applied in Russia and Europe around the Baltic Sea.


Both sessions have been marked among the top-3 most popular streams of the Baltic Sea Day Forum. Thank you for watching, your interest in our work makes us truly happy and proud!