Building flood resilience – together

In 2014, the city of Malmö experienced extreme precipitation, causing widespread damage and big financial losses. Now, the city is rethinking its approach to flood resilience and how this can be achieved together.

A cloudburst is known as an extreme amount of rainfall in a short period of time. These occurrences may lead to massive flooding in urban spaces both in public and private properties. The cost of flood damage can be enormous, both for the city and its citizens. Following the cloudburst events of 2014, Malmö decided it was time to take a new approach to flood resilience.

In an effort to explore new ways to address this issue, a regional water and wastewater services provider in southwest Sweden, VA SYD, initiated the project Building flood resilience – together in 2017. Operating in close collaboration with the City of Malmö, the project aims is to change the way people think about, value, and handle water. The program also aims to emphasize that when handled appropriately, rain and stormwater could be a huge resource.

The Challenges

Within the City of Malmö, only thirty percent of the land is owned by the municipality, the rest is privately owned. This poses a problem as when it rains, it rains all over the city and there are no legal demands on private property owners to take care of rain and stormwater – all actions are voluntary. Therefore, making that seventy percent of the city want to act is one of the main tasks for the project.

The together part is key to the project. By involving everyone living and working in the city, private and public actors alive, Malmö can achieve real change. This element is clearly stated in the Malmö Cloudburst plan, a long-term and concrete action plan for how the city should be equipped to handle future cloudbursts, everyone must participate. Communication has also been essential in the project. It was decided early on to always emphasize the benefits of doing things correctly, rather than focusing on the negative consequences of doing the wrong things.

Based on surveys concerning knowledge about flood resilience possibilities, as well as the willingness to take individual action, the project decided on a strategic and communicative action plan. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, all actions must have an individual approach,” says Nina Steiner, Communications Officer, VA SYD.

The Successes

The following are some of the successes of the project thus far:

  • Close collaboration with the city planners of Malmö.
  • Financial compensation of 2500 SEK (≈ 250 €) for each disconnected downpipe in Malmö.
  • Offering free services of an engineer to do on-site counseling to housing cooperatives.
  • A variation of nudging techniques, ranging from the tone of voice to delivering rain barrels to peoples’ homes.
  • Actively seeking collaboration with housing cooperatives, real estate companies, private property owners, builders, architects, landscape architects, and others.
  • Taking part in workshops and giving lectures in order to put focus on cloudburst issues in every part of the city planning process, locally as well as nationally.
  • Not waiting to be found, but to find people through participation at garden shows and fairs.
  • Very active public relations work.

The Results

  • Through the project, the city has seen:
  • Increased awareness of the importance of building flood resilience among colleagues and city planners in Malmö.
  • An increasing amount of private house owners disconnecting their downpipes in order to take care of the rainwater into their gardens.
  • A growing interest in using rain and stormwater on a bigger scale.

Although building flood resilience may take some time, Malmö has learned that it is possible to achieve, but only if it is all actors working together.


VA SYD,, Instagram @platsforvattnet,


Watch VA SYD about rainwater harvesting

Written by Elisabet Fornander; Edited by Everica Rivera