In mid-2015, the European Commission selected POWER (Political and sOcial awareness on Water EnviRonmental challenges) as one of its Horizon 2020 projects. POWER is a client-directed project to share the knowledge and experience in the areas of water scarcity, security, quality and consumption in different EU municipalities, thus creating an important tool for integrated water policy. The project is coordinated by Professor Paul Fleming, Director of Sustainable Development at the De Montfort University in the UK. Professors Peter Driessen (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development) and Kees van Leeuwen (Copernicus Institute and KWR) from Utrecht University also work on the project.
Radical change needed in urban water management
Climate change and urbanisation are among the most significant trends of the twenty-first century, affecting global natural resources such as water, economic development and human wellbeing. World population is growing faster than ever and will have to be absorbed primarily by cities. Cities need to adapt to these trends, which calls for radical changes in urban water management. The POWER project offers an excellent opportunity for Utrecht University and KWR to further strengthen their collaboration in the field of urban water governance.
Integrated approach to environmental challenges
Combining social, technological and political innovation in a coherent strategy is often more effective in offering solutions to environmental issues than more established, traditional policy mechanisms. In recent years, important environmental challenges have been addressed by more integrated approaches. Social innovation can provide a vital impetus to the successful implementation of environmental policy. These aspects play a major role in POWER, which will build on previous research at Utrecht University on flood risk governance, as well as climate adaptation policy in cities.
Intensive use of KWR’s City Blueprint tool
POWER also leans heavily on baseline assessments such as City Blueprint, which has been carried out for 45 municipalities and regions in 27 countries, mainly in in Europe. These assessments done by KWR showed that cities vary considerably with regard to their water management. This is also captured in the Blue City Index (BCI), the geometric mean of 25 indicators comprising the City Blueprint. The BCI was positively and significantly correlated with the gross national product per person, the ambitions of the local authorities regarding water management, the voluntary participation index and governance indicators according to the World Bank.