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Adaptation option

Water uses to cope with heat waves in cities (2016)

Investments in water supply services and infrastructures can help cities in their efforts to become more resilient to the negative effects of global warming and of heat waves in particular. The measures can consist in different packages of grey interventions:

  • Creating and/or repairing fountains for drinking and cooling;
  • Cooling by water spray (fountains);
  • Cooling by wetting streets.

There is an evident trade-off between the implementation of those solutions and water consumption. Therefore, the options mentioned above cannot be implemented in situations of water scarcity. Repairing historic drinking fountains and installing new ones creates more opportunities for people experiencing the negative effects of heat in the city. They can use the water for drinking when feeling thirsty or they use the water to cool down. This is one of the measures included in the City of London Adaptation Plan, and in particular in its Drinking Fountain Initiative. Open water can decrease the air temperature by evaporation, absorption of heat and transport of heat. The cooling effect of flowing water is greater than that of water that is standing still. This has to do with better mixing of flowing water and air and also with the transport of heat. A water spray from a fountain has an even greater cooling effect because of the large contact surface of the water and air, which stimulates evaporation. When in contact with the skin, water spray can also have a cooling effect due to evaporation. Wetting of streets also has a cooling effect. Wetting is best done in the morning and afternoon in direct sunlight. This technique is in Mediterranean cities, but it has become common practice in summer throughout Europe. When 1L/m2 of water is applied, wetting of streets can decrease air temperatures by 2-4°C. Fountains can decrease surrounding air temperatures with 3°C and its cooling effect can be felt up to 35 meters away. Fountains also have social effects. Children play in fountains and people enjoy fountains in parks and squares; they serve as meeting places.

Additional Details
Reference information

Adaptation Details


Stakeholder participation

Stakeholders’ participation is required for any decision making process related to the choices to be made to implement the new infrastructures in the cities.

Success and Limiting Factors

The measure should be included in the city planning instruments and in particular in its Adaptation Plan. The success depends significantly on its integration with other measures, e.g. waste-water reuse for watering gardens, will save clean water to be used for this measure. If not integrated in a broader water management plan, this measure could determine an increase in water consumption, which could be unsustainable during droughts and heat waves.

Costs and Benefits

Extending water supply services are low cost activities. Fountains require regular monitoring and maintenance for the water quality, filters and spray nozzles. More substantial could be the indirect costs deriving from the competition for water resources, with other uses and users.

Local governments are responsible for city water and climate adaptation planning, including measures extending water supply services like (drinking) fountains and wetting techniques.

Implementation Time

1-5 years.

Life Time

More than 10 years.

Reference information

DG CLIMA project "Adaptation Strategy of European Cities"


Cooling, fountain, water consumption, water spray, wetting street


Disaster Risk Reduction, Health, Urban

Climate impacts

Extreme Temperatures

Governance level

Local (e.g. city or municipal level)

Geographic characterisation


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