Prevention and preparedness for water related risks: the receipt of MUHA

Too much, scarcity or polluted water are the major risks related to water, according to OECD. Disruption to freshwater systems and lack of access to water supply and sanitation are also water-related risks. Of the 1,000 most severe disasters that have occurred since 1990, water-related disasters accounted for 90 per cent. In the short term, floods and droughts are likely to strike harder and more often due to climate change. Intense rainfalls lead to floods and drought reduces water supplies. That is why securing water availability is one of the major challenges for the coming century.

The Interreg ADRION MUHA project pulls together several organisations across the Adriatic-Ionian region to find joint solutions regarding water related hazards.  The project focused on four water related risks: accidental pollution, floods, drought and failure of critical infrastructure due to earthquakes. All aspects related to those risks have been taken into consideration, from prevention measures, such as the support to the design of Water Safety Plan, to preparedness and response ones, through dedicated civil protection exercises aiming to improve the response system.

A tool to develop Water Safety Plan (WSP) for small water utilities

MUHA looked at combining as well as harmonising Water Safety Plans, developed by water service managers, with Civil Protection procedures. To do so, the project involves partners from research institutes, water utilities and civil protection organisations. Strengthening ties among those three components represents a step forward for improving the prevention & preparedness to water related risks.

Small Water Utilities usually suffer from lack of resources and personnel as well as specific technical skills devoted to risk analysis. While medium and large water utilities have already this type of information, the smallest ones need specific support to start the process. MUHA Project has developed an application which helps water utilities, especially small ones, to implement a Water Safety Plan (WSP), tailored made to their specific features.

First of all, what is a Water Safety Plan (WSP)? WSPs ensure risk assessment and risk management of water from catchment to consumer, with the aim of consistently ensuring the safety and acceptability of a drinking-water supply. MUHA has followed the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization in matters related to water management and went through an assessment on the spot involving six Water Utilities across Italy, Greece, Montengro, Slovenia and Croatia. Dedicated sites have been identified to test the tool. Among these, the dam of Ridracoli, in the Romagna Apennines, which supplies water in the whole area of Romagna (Italy) to around 1 milion inhabitants, the Municipality of Kamnik (Slovenia),the water supply system of Istria (Croatia), the Goloubinka springs system (Croatia), the water utility of Niksic (Montenegro) and the water utility of Larissa (Greece). Preliminary studies on the use of Saftey Water Plans across the Adriatic-Ionian region involved around 80 water utilities.

Lago di Ridracoli (Ph N. Agostini)

The tool

The tool includes a catalogue of hazardous events and related risks. Each hazardous event is described including information on the related trigger, consequences and potential measures that should be taken. For each hazard, the user is required to evaluate the probability of occurrence by selecting the estimated return period among some pre-defined categories and the severity of impacts. The combination of two components provides risk estimation for each hazardous events, providing the water utilities with an initial screening necessary to identify which components and which hazards need further information to develop sound water safety plans.

The tool: Muha web (

Table-top exercise (TTX) to improve response to water related risks

The collaboration with Civil Protection agencies have been strenghtend thanks to the organisation of  table top exercises (TTX). They are discussion-based exercise where you simulate emergency and generate discussions around it. TTX are designed to put crisis response managers and practitioners in a situation to use existing plans and procedures and to take decisions according to a proposed scenario.

Each exercise was organized at country level, considering a specific hazard for each pilot site, namely:

  • Ridracoli water supply system (IT): drought
  • Water utility of Istria (HR): accidental pollution
  • Municipality of Kamnik (SLO): flooding
  • Water supply system of Zadar (HR): accidental pollution
  • Water utility of Niksic (MNE): drought
  • Water utility of Larissa (GR): earthquake

Beyond regional and national borders

While the involved countries have already developed their own different planning and response mechanisms at different levels, MUHA is expected to produce a long-term robust networking to address the common challenges of water-related hazards. Moreover, the definition of common action plans, methods and tools to be implemented in pilot actions are expected to improve response time and effectiveness of the coping capacity developed by national, bilateral and EU Civil Protection mechanisms.