The Challenges of Water Management and Governance in Cities

Collaboration matters

Global population growth is urban growth and, therefore, most of the water-related challenges and solutions reside in cities. Unless water management and water governance processes are significantly improved within a decade or so, cities are likely to face serious and prolonged water insecurity, urban floods and/or heat stress, that may result in social instability and, ultimately, in massive migration. Aging water infrastructure, one of the most expensive infrastructures in cities, are a relevant challenge in order to address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: clean water and sanitation, SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities and SDG 13: climate action. In fact many of the SDGs are water-related, directly or indirectly, as shown in Figure 1.

One of the results of the collaboration between KWR, the University of Bath and University of Utrecht has been the decision to make a special issue for the journal Water on the topic “The Challenges of Water Management and Governance in Cities.” Together with other international partners. This Special Issue is nearly completed and 16 contributions have already been published. The editors of this Special Issue, i.e., Jos Frijns, Peter Driessen, Jan Hofman and Kees van Leeuwen, have grouped these papers into four categories:

  1. Introduction to urban water challenges
  2. Integrated assessment methods
  3. Water management practices
  4. Water governance strategies

The papers are published online and brought together in a book (Open Access) and here I provide only a short introduction. I hope you will enjoy further reading of the papers in the book of which the link is provided below.

Figure 1: Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Introduction to urban water challenges

This Special Issue (Book) starts with two policy papers of the international organizations UNESCO and OECD, presenting a summary of their most recent work on policy solutions for sustainable water resources management in urban areas. Both organizations stress the importance of integrated methodologies to assess the urban water challenges across a range of temporal and spatial scales.

Integrated assessment methods

These papers describe integrated assessment methods and their application for sustainable water resources management, water sensitive urban design, urban water reuse, and sustainable wastewater management systems. These papers address the importance to enhance governance capacity to implement systems for water management in cities.

Water management practices

The third group includes papers that present water management practices to enhance water security under climate change conditions. Experiences with stormwater management, urban drainage systems, rainwater harvesting, and flood risk control are analyzed and lessons learned are shared.

Water governance strategies

The urgency of the challenges related to urbanization and climate change calls for adaptive water governance. In the final group of papers, multi-actor governance strategies are presented to take care of flood resilience, regional water supply and urban watershed management.