Home Database Adaptation options Adaptation of integrated land use planning
Adaptation option

Adaptation of integrated land use planning

Integrated land use planning is a strategy to prevent climate impacts as there are flooding, drought, water scarcity and heat stress, as well as to avoid exposure of valuable elements to risks. Climate impacts can be prevented when changing land use in a way that it positively affect the regional water balance, which influences the evapotranspiration process through infiltration, the soil water redistribution process, and surface roughness, which controls overland flow velocity and floodplain flow rates. Afforestation, forest transformation, sustaining wetlands, avoiding bare soil during precipitation season, modified vegetation cover, and introducing drought/flood-tolerant crops can also reduce flood and drought risk. Measures to avoid exposure of valuable elements to risks generally involve  zoning, building codes, such as minimum floor heights and water proofing, as well as land use permits.

Land-use planning is also useful in case of snow avalanches, as for instance is used in Switzerland, where zoning restricts new building areas at risks.  Three zones are established: red where building in strictly prohibited, blue where building is possible but designs have to take impacts into account, and yellow with no restrictions. The use of maps and plans provide information regarding these restrictions and negative impacts are considerably avoided. Some areas are more prone to flooding than others. Therefore, when planning new constructions in cities, there should, among others, be kept in mind that:

  • Construction in flood areas should be avoided if possible;
  • Urban development should be planned in low hazard areas;
  • Development of buildings, housing, economical values etc. in flood risk areas should be restricted;
  • Storm water services should be planned.

The same rationale of zoning is also applied in Flanders (Belgium) by the water test. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that integrated land use planning could assist to improve microclimates, in particular in urban areas, where these measures can contribute to reduce urban heat island effects. Meanwhile, land use design principles are also developed to cope with the fire risks, as is the case in the State of Victoria in Australia.

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Adaptation Details



IPCC categories

Institutional: Government policies and programmes, Institutional: Law and regulations

Stakeholder participation

This option requires contributions from a large range of actors and sectors such as housing, transportation, energy sectors, environment. The planning proces also requires cooperation between national, regional and local level of government.

Success and Limiting Factors

EU policies and subsidies strongly influence land-use changes and hydrologic response on a regional catchment scale. Policy support is necessary for option's implementation, while option can be incoherent with existing policies. In addition, to be successful, the land use option should be tailored to the local land use situation and fit into the functioning of the environmental systems.

Costs and Benefits

Land use planning measures reduce the damage costs by excluding some activities from the risk areas and by providing conditions under which particular development would be allowed at locations with given flood risk. Previous work in Australia, for example, has suggested that land use planning is one of the most cost-effective means of reducing the growth of future flood damage. Studies undertaken in the 1990s evaluated the benefits of planning measures in the State of Victoria and found that introducing long-terming planning measures could have benefits-cost ratios in the order of 2.0 to 3.8. In the UK, demonstration sites for natural water retention by land use management have shown significant reductions in flood risk. Option involves possible introduction of non-native species. Option requires changes of agricultural practices. Implementation of option requires public spending. What is rarely considered so far, is that land use planning also provides benefits other than reduced climate impacts, as for instance economic development (f.e. new recreational opportunities) and increased liveability (f.e. in cities).

Land use planning impacts the Common Agricultural Policy, Birds and Habitats Directives, the Floods Directive, Water Framework Directive,  the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Directives. Planning procedures can contribute directly to some of the 'basic measures' outlined in Article 11 (WFD): “through the preparation of spatial plans, development control, and the application of planning techniques and approaches, spatial planning can contribute to the successful implementation of the WFD's 'basic measures' and can consequently help to encourage the sustainable management and protection of freshwater resources”.

Implementation Time

5-10 years to implement integrated land use plan.

Life Time


Reference information


ClimWatAdapt, ADAM Adaptation and Mitigation strategies

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jun 07 2016   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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