Archived project

Transitions to more sustainable concepts of urban water management

Goal: My PhD research was focused on developing new concepts for urban water systems to reduce the vulnerability of cities to floods and droughts. The project also included the required societal change process to realize more sustainable urban water systems in practice.

Date: 1 September 2005 - 1 November 2009

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Project log

Rutger De Graaf
added 10 research items
This paper uses a transdisciplinary approach combining a technical concept, social aspects and implementation in practice. Climate change and higher demands from society demand learning about new modes of water supply in urban areas. Changing to other modes of water supply by system innovation is a long term process, impeded by the long expected lifetime of urban water infrastructure, high levels of invested capital and high levels of uncertainty. In this case study in the southern part of Rotterdam, we demonstrate the necessity to experiment with local water supply on the short term and assess the transformative capacity of the water management regime to change towards more sustainable water management in the long term.
Urbanization, land subsidence and sea level rise will increase vulnerability ofthe urbanized low-lying areas in the western part of the Netherlands. In this article pos-sibilities are explored to reduce vulnerability of these areas by implementing alternativewater management options. Two main water management fields are distinguished, watersupply and flood control. A four-component vulnerability framework is presented thatincludes threshold capacity, coping capacity, recovery capacity, and adaptive capacity. Byusing the vulnerability framework it is shown that current water supply and flood controlstrategies in the Netherlands focus on increasing threshold capacity by constructing higherand stronger dikes, improved water storage and delivery infrastructure. A complete vul-nerability decreasing strategy requires measures that include all four capacities. Flooddamage reduction, backup water supply systems and emergency plans are measures thatcan contribute to increasing coping capacity. Recovery capacity can be increased by multi-source water supply, insurance, or establishing disaster funds. Adaptive capacity can bedeveloped by starting experiments with new modes of water supply and urbanization.Including all four components of the vulnerability framework enables better understandingof water and climate related vulnerability of urban areas and enables developing morecomplete water management strategies to reduce vulnerability.
Worldwide, the need for transformative change in urban water management is acknowledged by scientists and policy makers. The effects of climate change and developments such as urbanization, the European Water Framework Directive, and societal concerns about the sustainability of urban water system force the sector to adapt. In The Netherlands, a shift towards integration of spatial planning and water management can be observed. Despite major changes in water management policy and approach, changes in the physical urban water management infrastructure remain limited to incremental solutions and demonstration projects. Policy studies show that institutional factors and professional perceptions are important factors for application of innovations in urban water management. An online survey among Dutch urban water management professionals demonstrates that according to most respondents, optimization of the current system is sufficient to achieve both European and national objectives for sustainable urban water management. The respondents are most concerned with the effects of climate change on urban water systems. In contrast to current policy of the national government, priority factors that should be addressed to achieve a more sustainable urban water system are improving knowledge of local urban water systems, capacity building, developing trust between stakeholders, and improving involvement of elected officials and citizens.
Rutger De Graaf
added a project goal
My PhD research was focused on developing new concepts for urban water systems to reduce the vulnerability of cities to floods and droughts. The project also included the required societal change process to realize more sustainable urban water systems in practice.
 
Rutger De Graaf
added 2 research items
Urbanisation, land subsidence and climate change will increase the vulnerability of the urbanized low-lying areas all over the world. In this paper possibilities are described that reduce vulnerability of these areas by implementing alternative urban flood control options. A four component vulnerability framework is presented that includes threshold capacity, coping capacity, recovery capacity and adaptive capacity. By using the vulnerability framework it is shown that current flood control strategies in the Netherlands focus on increasing threshold capacity by constructing higher and stronger dikes and increased river capacity. A complete vulnerability decreasing strategy requires measures that include all four capacities. International examples of measures that reduce vulnerability in urban areas are described using the vulnerability framework. Flood damage reduction, risk communication and emergency plans are measures that can contribute to increasing coping capacity. Recovery capacity can be increased by insurance, developing recovery plans and establishing disaster funds. Adaptive capacity can be developed by integrating spatial planning and flood management and by starting experiments with new modes of urbanisation. Including all four components of the vulnerability framework enables better understanding of flood vulnerability of urban areas and enables developing more complete water management strategies to reduce vulnerability.
Urbanization, land subsidence and sea level rise will increase vulnerability to droughts in the urbanized low-lying areas in the western part of the Netherlands. In this paper a possibility is explored to decrease vulnerability of urban areas by implementing an alternative water supply option. A four component vulnerability framework is presented that includes threshold capacity, coping capacity, recovery capacity and adaptive capacity. By using the vulnerability framework it is elaborated that current water supply strategies in the Netherlands mainly focus on increasing threshold capacity by constructing improved water storage and delivery infrastructure. A complete vulnerability decreasing strategy requires measures that include all four components. Adaptive capacity can be developed by starting experiments with new modes of water supply. A concept which is symbolically called 'the closed city' uses local urban rainfall as the only source of water supply. The 'closed city' can decrease the water dependence of urban areas on (1) the surrounding rural areas that are diminishing in size and that are increasingly under strain and (2) river water resources that will probably be less constant and reliable as a result of climate change.