Rainwater Living Lab Aachen - Thinking Water in the City Together

  Map of precipitation data for Aachen from 29/05/2018 Copyright: © DWD, Geobasis NRW

Initial situation

The topic of heavy rainfall and urban flooding or flash floods is becoming increasingly relevant worldwide. The latest results of European climate models as well as regional evaluations of weather radar data from the German Weather Service show that a new risk situation due to extreme weather events can be assumed in Germany as well. In recent years, numerous municipalities in Germany have been hit by heavy precipitation events; this has led to considerable material damage as a result of flooding. The city of Aachen was hit twice within a single month: on April 29 and May 29, 2018, resulting in severe flooding throughout the city center. Within a very short time, the fire department received over 400 emergency calls. Many RWTH buildings were also affected and traffic junctions in the city were impassable.

Project goals

The aim of this research project was to initiate a unique Rainwater Living Lab using the city of Aachen as an example, in order to develop multi- and transdisciplinary analysis, planning and communication processes as well as tools for a sustainable flood and damage prevention for extreme events. Here, the project was to examine to what extent interdisciplinary approaches for early warning and risk reduction, such as sustainable and nature-compatible rainwater management based on the principle of the "sponge city", can be developed. Furthermore, the research results were to be made available and communicated interactively in digital media. The Rainwater Living Lab Aachen would have a model character in order to subsequently transfer the results and tools to other national and international communities.

Project structure

  • Project Objective A: Development of tools for early detection and early warning of heavy rainfall hazards based on rain radar data, precipitation measurements and other available data in the context of data crowdsourcing.
  • Project Objective B: Development of models using artificial intelligence to describe the propagation processes of heavy rainfall events, taking into account surface runoff and sewer systems.
  • Project Objective C: Development of innovative measures for the storage of water in the city to prevent flooding and hazards.
  • Project objective D: Development of communication strategies using conventional and digital media for information and early warning.
  • Project Objective E: Measures to improve the risk awareness of the population including increasing acceptance.
Funding Explanatory Research Space at RWTH Aachen University

Department of Geography RWTH Aachen, Department of Physical Geography and Climatology:

  • Main contact person: Dr. Gunnar Ketzler
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Leuchner
  • Oliver Reitz, M.Sc.
  • Niels Döscher, M.Sc.

Institute for Urban Water Management (de)

Chair and Institute for Sociology: Technology and Organization

Chair and Institute of Urban and Transport Planning

Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management