Wrocław (Poland)

Wrocław is located in the valley of the Odra River in south-western Poland. It has about 640,000 residents and covers an area of 293km2.

The city is characterised by its well-preserved historic centre, which contains structures from the medieval period. There is an area of dense downtown development around the centre, flanked by residential areas including block buildings and “green” homes.

The riverside location of the city creates both an opportunity for sustainable development and a challenging geographic constraint.

The progressive urbanisation of areas outside the inner city and the rapid increase in surface sealing, alongside more frequent extreme weather phenomena caused by climate change, have led to issues with the existing rainwater drainage systems. At times the channels are unable to accommodate such a large amount of water, leading to flash floods.

Sustainability focus: Sustainable rainwater management

Rainwater harvesting – the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse – reduces the risk of flash floods and drought. Since 2017, Wrocław has implemented sustainable rainwater management, applying on-site reuse of rainwater whenever possible, as well as progressive release of retained water to delay run-off. This is reflected in Wrocław’s urban planning documents, particularly the City Master Plan and local land use plans.

On-site rainwater harvesting and its smart reuse have economic benefits too: the reduced burden on drainage systems lessens maintenance costs, while the rainwater can be used by businesses. The preservation of the natural water cycle also positively affects the local microclimate and biodiversity.

In 2017, a Catalogue of Good Practices detailing methods for the sustainable management of rainfall on road surfaces was developed in cooperation with the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences.

Residents are also being empowered to contribute. In July 2019, the city council launched a grants programme to encourage residents to sustainably manage rainwater on their own premises. Through the programme, Wrocław’s residents can receive up to 80 percent co-funding to build a rain garden or install a rainwater storage tank. These micro-level interventions are a step towards achieving macro-scale ecological goals, by disconnecting private properties from the rainwater drainage system.

In May 2019, outdoor workshops taught children how to build rain gardens. Such workshops showed residents that draining rainwater into the municipal sewage system wastes a precious natural resource. Residents were also taught to manage rainwater on-site.

A new “I like the rain” project is about to be launched in schools, featuring educational workshops for young people and the building of school rain gardens. By the end of 2019, a second part of the Catalogue of Good Practices will also be completed. This part will outline the principles of sustainably managing rainwater in built-up areas.

The need to knows

  • Around 400 residents participated in rain garden workshops in May and June 2019
  • Through the “I like the rain” project, 2,500 young inhabitants of Wrocław will learn about the benefits of rain gardens
  • Water fountain installation as part of a Zero Waste campaign will prevent the use of about 840,000 single-use bottles per year, as well as curbing the consumption of sugary drinks and making students’ backpacks lighter


  • Signatory to the Porto Declaration on the Urban Water Agenda 2030
  • Signatory to the EU Covenant of Mayors
  • European Capital of Culture (2016)

What the city has to say

“Another summer shows us how urgent and important it is to seriously consider the proper management of rainwater – on one hand more and more cities struggle with flash floods caused by cloudbursts, and, on the other, more and more cities face running out of water. We need to put a strong focus on sustainable rainwater management to save as much of this precious resource as possible, and to keep people and infrastructure safe.”

Adam Zawada, Deputy Mayor of Wrocław

ICLEI and Wrocław

Wrocław has been a member of ICLEI since 2017. Deputy Mayor Adam Zawada is a member of ICLEI’s European Regional Executive Committee.



Banner image by Maciek Lulko. All body images provided by the Municipality of Wrocław.