Collaboration for capacity building

Creek enhanced to improve drainage. Credit: Mairit Saar.


The LIFE UrbanStorm project aims to reduce the vulnerability of Estonian cities to the effects of climate change and to increase the capacity of cities to mitigate floods caused by torrential rain. The goals of the pilot area in Viimsi Manor Park are to drain the soil in the park and reduce the flow rate in the ditch to protect its banks, which run through the park, from erosion.


The LIFE Urban Storm project aims to develop sustainable and climate-resilient stormwater management systems. The goals of building sustainable rainwater solutions in Viimsi Manor Park were to:
• Improve the soil water regime in the park to eliminate excessive wetness in some areas, thereby making the trees less susceptible to disease.
• Reduce the rapid entry of rainwater into the sewerage system and thus prevent flooding.
• Protect the banks of the ditch that runs through the park from erosion by decreasing the flow rate (Mätlik & Reinla 2021).

Description of practice

The UrbanStorm project is funded by the European Union’s LIFE+ programme, Viimsi Municipality and the Estonian Environmental Investment Centre. The aim of the project is to reduce the vulnerability of Estonian cities to the effects of climate change and to increase the capacity of cities to mitigate floods caused by torrential rain.
A major share of the rainwater from the residential area located around Pärnamäe reservoir and Viimsi town flows through Viimsi Manor Park. The use of sustainable stormwater systems in the park aims to drain the soil and to reduce the flow rate in the ditch to protect the banks from erosion. This should also make the park more enjoyable for the public.
Before designing the project, it was important to be aware of the heritage conservation conditions and requirements. Since Viimsi Manor Park is a heritage conservation area, a permit from the National Heritage Board was required.

Project process

1. Assessment of existing experience and best practices in implementing integrated and climate resilient urban drainage systems;

2. Develop strategy and action plan for climate change adaptation for Viimsi;

3. Capacity building of Estonian municipal water management specialists and engineers;

4. Design and set up a comprehensive digitalised storm water management system for Viimsi;

5. Test the use of nature-based measures to mitigate floods caused by heavy rain and develop a methodology for cost-benefit analysis and construction of sustainable drainage demonstration sites in Viimsi;

6. Transfer and replicate the project’s results by compiling a toolbox and establishing a working group for the transfer of the project;

7. Assess the socio-economic impact of project activities and their impact on urban ecosystems;

8. Experience exchange and stakeholder involvement;

9. Project management and monitoring. (UrbanStorm n.d.)

Technical process

The ditch was dredged and its flow improved to enhance the humidity regime in the area. Changing the width of the bottom of the ditch increased the water surface in sections. Water barriers were added along the entire length of the ditch to prevent the rapid flow of water. A dam lake was added to the ditch, the northern slope of which has been designed as a seating area with a wooden platform. The joints created by the steppingstones and the dam allowed the ditch to be connected in several places.

Who was involved  

Project partners: Viimsi Rural Municipal Government (lead partner), Estonian University of Life Sciences, Baltic Environmental Forum Estonia, Department of Environment and Municipal Engineering Services of Tallinn (Mätlik & Reinla 2021).
Others involved include designers, a landscape architect, the Estonian Water Works Association and the National Heritage Board.

Promotion and communication 

The project was promoted on UrbanStorm’s webpage and Viimsi Municipality’s webpage, and written about in various articles.
Overall project visibility and dissemination of results involved roll-ups and information boards, articles in media and an event to introduce SUDS to the public in Viimsi (Mätlik & Reinla, 2021).

Time commitment 

The period of project implementation is September 2018 to February 2023 (54 months) (UrbanStorm, n.d.). The design agreement was signed in February 2020 but preparations for the work in the SUDS area began at the beginning of 2019. Construction was completed by May 2021.


Level of participation
  • No participation (stakeholders/citizens were not included) 
  • Informing (informing citizens about what is planned) 
  • Consultation (offering options and listening to the feedback) 
  • Co-production in some of the aspects 
  • Co-production from start to finish
Urban planning challenge(s) tackled Governance and institutional factors

  • Working collaboratively
  • Standards and regulatory processes
  • Finance

Stakeholder engagement 

  • Public acceptance
  • Shared decision-making 
  • Social inclusion

Knowledge and skills

  • Awareness and communication
  • Expertise
  • Technical integration

Lessons learned

● High levels of collaboration across teams and experts bring in different expertise and support project success.

● Training for designers and municipalities, and information days for experts supported cooperation.

● Flexibility and adaptability enable adjustments to changing circumstances. Not everything can be done exactly as planned and at times it is necessary to change something on the spot.

● Using existing on-site material in the landscaping design contributes to the historical atmosphere.

● The ditch bank is adorned with various aquatic and shoreline plants while the ditch itself remains visible throughout its length.


● Information stands and brochures help raise visitor awareness about the benefits of green infrastructure.

● The popularity of Viimsi Manor Park with residents is likely to have increased after the soil in the park was drained and made more visually appealing.

● Alternating sections by changing the width of the water surface or creating water barriers and rapids makes the ditch more interesting.

● The project is unique in Viimsi and in the whole country.

Read more

Project’s web page

An Estonian news article about flooding in Tallinn illustrated with pictures and explanations of the UrbanStorm project