LIFE16 CCA/HU/000115

"Municipalities as integrators and coordinators
in adaptation to climate change"

Actions of the five pilot area implemented by the local municipalities

The 5 pilot sites represent typical water risk situations connected to small municipalities in Central-Eastern Europe, amplified by climate change. A very important element of the project is to demonstrate which and how ecological-based local ’assets’ are accessible for municipalities to adapt. In many cases, there is no need for expensive investments, as municipalities own and have the right to use different ’assets’. They have institutional, infrastructural, human and cultural assets available, and all these are based on local natural assets.


Bátya is a small village with 2239 inhabitants and 3386 km2, next to the river Danube. The average annual local precipitation is 550 mm, while in 2010 the local gauging-station observed 1000 mm. Extreme rain events cause damages to agriculture, infrastructure (roads, channel network) and the residential and public buildings. On the other hand, the evaporation is also high, and the region is exposed to droughts. The estimated local evapotranspiration can reach 850 mm/year. Consequently, the balance between the annual precipitation and the estimated evapotranspiration is negative: 300mm/year. As much of the Hungarian Great Plain (5 million hectares, home to 3 million people) face the same climate and water risks, it is important to find and demonstrate how municipalities can use ecosystem based adaptation to bridge this broken balance in the small water cycle.

As Bátya is situated next to the Danube, the geomorphological characteristics of its environment are typical of the alluvial fan of the river. It includes natural depressions (marshlands, swamps, lakes, wetlands, oxbows etc., the attached historical and contemporary topographic maps show them.) that have partly disappeared and transformed through natural or anthropogenic processes. A typical asset that was developed naturally and transformed by anthropogenic processes is the ’clay-pit’, where local communities have had sourced building materials for houses, public buildings or dykes. Almost every settlement has their own clay-pit system in their outer areas, and most of them are owned by the respective municipalities. Currently most of them are not managed, but left for illegal waste disposal.

Nevertheless, clay-pits are very important semi-natural assets that local municipalities should recognize and use for local climate change adaptation. Bátya has identified these local assets and aim to implement a prototype NWRM to enhance local clay-pits and use them to reduce local vulnerability. This will allow the project to demonstrate how other local municipalities can turn these apparently useless lands to an advantage.

The key purpose of involving local clay-pits into climate change adaptation is to collect and retain rainwater in extreme rainfall events, while ensure the infiltration of the retained rainwater to recharge groundwater in heat wave and drought periods. Besides, this restored and expanded clay-pit will serve as freshwater habitat (for water birds, fish, amphibians) and buffer zone around the settlement, improving the local climate through evaporation. Consequently, it will mitigate the negative impacts on agriculture, residents, infrastructure and buildings.


Püspökszilágy is situated in the North Hungarian Mountains. It represents in the project the climate change related problems of upland villages.

The location of the village is extraordinary, as it lies on the drainage divide between the Danube and Tisza river basins. The key surface water is the Szilágyi stream, which is a minor brook with a small catchment area (10km2). The annual mean precipitation is only ~600mm/y. All these geographical characteristics make the village extremely exposed to droughts. Besides, Püspökszilágy has experienced record level flash floods in every two-three years in the last 10-20 years which had never happened before. Both flash floods and droughts cause many damages to agriculture, urban areas and infrastructure. In the upper watershed, the croplands and some forests dominate the landscape, covering steep slopes which significantly increased soil erosion and flash flood risks. Huge amount of sediment (soil loss) can be observed in certain creeks and gullies in case of flash floods.  In the lower watershed, where the settlement is built, the floodplain along the Szilagyi stream does not fulfil its water retention role which leads to a broken balance between the stream and the valley bottom. In summer the valley bottom is completely dries, what has negative impacts on agriculture, ecosystems and the groundwater level. On the other hand, flash floods cause damages to public and residential buildings.

In this project, the aim of Püspökszilágy is to coordinate local adaptation and balance water stress periods through NWRM, what will result in reduced risk of flash floods and sediment loads and improved water availability for summer drought periods. We intend to design NWRMs in both the upper and the lower watersheds, what will demonstrate how upland municipalities can respond to climate change vulnerability through integrated, basin-scale NWRM implementation. It is important to show that the municipality can adapt using its natural assets, such as the stream, the valley and the erosional gullies that join it.

The NWRM will be deployed at two key locations. On the upper watershed Püspökszilágy aims to retain flash flood’s water as well as the sediment load, before it reaches the built environment. For this purpose four wooden check dams will be built in the gullies and the Szilágyi stream. The retained water will nourish the upland croplands and forests. On the lower watershed croplands and built environment dominate the valley bottom of the stream. A part of the Szilágyi stream’s floodplain will be restored as a wetland and lake system to increase water retention capacity that accommodates and stores flood and sediment, and reduces drought risk. Besides, a wooden check dam will be built right above the wetland system to retain sediment that would otherwise block bottlenecks, i.e. bridges.


Ruzsa is a small village with 2800 inhabitants and 4800 hectares. The settlement is situated on the Sand Ridge of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve in South-East Hungary, which is the driest part of Hungary. In this region, the changes of hydrological factors significantly influenced the landscape in a relatively short period of time. The area of wetlands is continuously decreasing, which is a critical symptom of vulnerability. Ruzsa is situated at relatively high elevation which contributes to increased water leakage and weaker water retention capacity.  

A good combination of NWRMs focusing on rainwater retention both in the residential and the outer areas is the aim of the project. The key natural and anthropogenic assets that Ruzsa will use for adaptation are as follows: The channel network of the outer areas that have not been used for water retention before. The effluent decanted water (grey water) of the local waterworks, that till now gas been released to the main canal. One of the channel will be converted to a multi-purpose one through water retention engineering structures to provide water. An upstream end flow control water retention engineering structure and a downstream end flow control water retention engineering structure will be built. The channel pilot site will be used to test an innovative cooperation among the local land users. Ruzsa will coordinate with the farmers the start of a local “collective adaptation” to the ‘Greening’ The effluent cleaned sewage water (grey water), that has not been retained and infiltrated to recharge shallow groundwater. Grey water retention measure will be implemented in the outskirt of the residental area of the village. There will be another grey water retention near the local sewage treatment plant. The sewage treatment plant releases 200m2 treated effluent water on daily basis. This water will be retained right next to the treatment plant (outside the residential area) in a 1 ha pond and it will infiltrate to the groundwater to reverse harmful soil transformation processes and reduce drought risks. The area of the proposed site is a non-used lowland that used to be a natural depression and wetland before it had dried out. The effluent water will be retained in the pond and the excess water will flow to a near channel.

Not only the combination of these NWRMs will be an innovation in Hungary, but also the retention and utilization of grey water for climate change adaptation will make these interventions a prototype of adaptation measures for the whole country. The above listed three elements will allow Ruzsa to demonstrate how local, small-scale NWRM solutions can be combined to improve local resilience.

The pilot project in Ruzsa will serve as a replicable prototype of combined water retention measures for improved groundwater recharge for the whole Danube-Tisza Interfluve and other dry areas in Europe.


Rákócziújfalu is a small village with 1871 inhabitants and 1961 hectares. It is situated on the former floodplain of the river Tisza, right next to the river. This region is situated in the centre of the Tisza River Basin, and extremely exposed to floods, inland excess water inundations, droughts, heat waves and heavy rainfalls. Among these water risks, inland excess water inundation is a special Hungarian phenomenon, which involves large areas and large groups of the population. Excess water in the lowland areas of the Tisza River Basin originate from specific meteorological, hydrological and morphological conditions on saturated or frozen surface layers as a result of sudden melting snow or heavy precipitation, or as a result of groundwater flooding.  This undrained runoff or excess water does not flow from the affected area by gravity because the natural connections to the river were broken by the flood protection dykes. Consequently this type of inundation causes significant damages to agriculture or even to infrastructure and settlements. Nevertheless, this water could be used later, in summer drought periods, when farmers use electricity to pump groundwater and operate expensive irrigation systems. Besides excess water, the village is exposed to increasingly frequent heavy rainfalls which cause local flash floods in the village. As this is one of the driest region of Hungary, the exposure to droughts is also extremely high, especially in July and August.

Agriculture plays an important role in the region as key economic sector. Two big food and beverage companies have factories in the neighbouring settlement. Heineken brewery produces and bottles beer made of barley, while Bunge produces crude vegetable oil made of sunflower and rapeseed. Barley, sunflower and rapeseed in the Great Hungarian Plain are all exposed to excess water, floods, droughts, heat waves and heavy rains. In an average year, a barley, sunflower or rapeseed farmer have difficulties sowing and planting due to excess water inundation; then frequent heat waves, long droughts and unpredictable heavy rainfalls cause crop failures.

The municipality have identified its accessible natural assets (channels and natural depressions) and aims to design and implement NWRM to capture excess water in inundation periods and rainwater in heavy rain periods and retain this water to help reduce the risk of droughts.


Tiszatarján is situated next to the river Tisza, and one-fourth of its area (1000 ha) belongs to the floodplain (area between the dykes). The village is an economically disadvantaged rural community, consequently with low adaptive capacity. The floodplain is extremely exposed to high and unpredictable floods, long and increasingly frequent droughts and inland excess water inundation. Floods cause crop failures and spread of invasive plant species, droughts cause decreased water availability for ecosystems, agriculture and recreation, resulting in high sensitivity. This means that key stakeholders are all vulnerable to climate change. The stresses arising from climate change are amplifying the impacts of human stresses, leading to a broken balance between nature and people. One of the most critical symptoms of the vulnerability is the rapid expansion of invasive plants, particularly in the floodplain, reducing the floodwater retention capacity and increasing flood risk. They also cause the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services and increase land use costs.

The aim of the project is to make complete and demonstrate this as an ecosystem-based adaptation model with NWRM through the following elements:

Implement small-scale NWRM in the floodplain: create open surface water bodies on the territory of a clay-pit system and connect them with each other. They will function as connected permanent water bodies. This will provide natural water supply through infiltration to the groundwater which will be beneficial for agriculture; and surface water as spawning, hiding and feeding place for water birds, amphibians and the grazing animals. Also this wetland will store inland excess water from croplands.

Enhance local ecotourism based on the restored floodplain, which will also reduce dependence on climate-sensitive agriculture to generate local income. This includes a visitor trail on the territory of the wetland and small pond system.

Obtain legal protection for the pilot site to ensure the sustainability of the investment.

This prototype’s implementation will prepare the completion and demonstration of an NWRM-based adaptation model that responds to the typical problems of settlements along regulated lowland rivers, like the Tisza in Hungary. The replication potential of the prototype of this complex solution comprises the settlements along the Tisza, its tributaries, the lower Danube and other rivers in Central and Eastern Europe.

Project partners

Minister of Interior Bátya KTSZ General Directorate of Water Management (OVF) Pannon Pro Innovations Püspökszilágy Rákócziújfalu Ruzsa Tiszatarján WWF Hungary