City Blueprint at Habitat III conference: host city under the microscope

Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, will take place from 17 to 20 October, in Quito, Ecuador. This third edition of the conference will address the global challenges resulting from increasing urbanisation and climate change. Working in collaboration with Utrecht University, KWR conducted a City Blueprint in Quito; the tool is a quick-scan that reveals the sustainability of a city’s watercycle. The host city of Habitat III presented a textbook example of the global urbanisation challenges. Although City Blueprint produced a low score for Quito in the area of sustainability, it naturally also presented solution paths for the city. The purpose of City Blueprint is to provide quick insight into the current situation as well as practical suggestions to transition to a sustainable city.

City Blueprint gives a picture of transition

In transitioning to sustainability, a city needs a tool to monitor its progress. With City Blueprint and the score achieved by Quito, this is an important message for the Habitat III conference. City Blueprint works on the basis of three assessment frameworks, each of which with a central question. The objective is to determine (1) the city’s key challenges, (2) the effectiveness of its water management, and (3) areas for improvement in its water management.

Quito as a textbook case

In the case of Quito the key challenges lie in the rapid pace of urbanisation, the occurrence of high ambient temperatures, economic pressure and inflation. The city thus embodies the trends in global urbanisation. Quito’s City Blueprint results show that it can reap great benefits through a more effective collaboration between stakeholders and a stronger awareness about drinking water consumption among its population. On a scale of 0 to 10, Quito’s City Blueprint score was a meagre 2, indicating that there are many areas for improvement. Apart from the low score, City Blueprint also points to where attention should be focused the most: water pipe leakages, wastewater treatment, and reuse of energy and resources.

Solution paths

Although the City Blueprint is not intended as a basis for longer-term strategies to address urbanisation problems, the example of Quito shows how effective it is in indicating solution paths. If the city implements changes in its drinking water charges, this could possibly lead to more efficient water use. The rationing of drinking water  offers another possible approach. Moreover, the awareness of the residents of Quito about their drinking water consumption could be strengthened through regular campaigns using modern tools (internet, social networks), instead of traditional approaches, such as information campaigns in schools. In general, an environment characterised by transparency, a sense of responsibility and participation will produce the climate the city needs for the necessary transition.

City Blueprint is an initiative of KWR; it is one of the Watershare tools and is embedded in EIP Water (European Innovation Partnership on Water) of the European Commission.