Cities are the Future for Humanity, Making them Livable and Resilient is Critical

The current pace of urban growth is unprecedented in human history. The 20th century witnessed a 400 percent increase in urban population in absolute terms; by the first decade of this century over 50 percent of the world’s human population was living in an urban area, and the pace of change is forecast to continue.

Rapid urbanization presents enormous challenges for cities, urban planners, elected officials and for water professionals. In 2050 an additional 3 billion people will be living in cities, the vast majority of them in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Asia. Yet the majority of the needed urban infrastructure has yet to be built. This presents clear opportunities for cities to develop in a way that is both sustainable and inspired by ecosystems. Only cities that replenish natural water systems will ensure water security, quality and sustainability.

How can rapidly growing cities become healthy, liveable, resilient and “regenerative” places for people to live? How can we ensure a Low Carbon approach to urban development, one that embraces the concept of the “Resource Productive City”?

The ICLEI World Congress (April 8th – 12th in Seoul) brings together urban authorities from around the world to discuss the future of cities. ICLEI, a network of over 1000 cities, towns and metropolises, will issue the Seoul Declaration aimed at addressing the future of water in cities by building change through local action. The timing of the Declaration is not coincidental; it comes just prior to the 7th World Water Forum, which will bring together stakeholders concerned with the future of water from across sectors.

The International Water Association (IWA), through its Cities of the Future programme, will be contribute to the ICLEI congress through The Future of Water in Cities: Priorities and Strategies for Local Water Security session on Saturday 11th April.

It will be a key opportunity to make the link between the work of local governments and the IWA’s Cities of the Future programme, which has also supported the preparation of the Water and Cities theme at the 7th World Water Forum. The Cities of the Future programme builds on the immense experience, technical knowledge and inspiring work of the IWA’s water professionals. It seeks to share this with city planners and local governments, to scale-up efforts that ensure water is a key element in making a city healthier, liveable and resilient.

A key innovation platform to deliver the sustainable urban water management of the future is the 5Rs: re-duce, re-use, re-cover, re-cycle and re-plenish. Reduce water loss and increase water efficiency. Re-use water, especially urban areas located in water stressed areas. Recover energy, nutrients and other materials from wastewater. Recycle those materials in fertilizers, plastic appliances, supplying materials to industries and farmers. Finally, the water management of the future replenishes watersheds, lakes and groundwater reserves within and around cities.

5Rs from IWA on Vimeo.

Corinne Trommsdorff discusses the 5Rs of new water management

However, the technical implementation cannot happen without an enabling environment. 5 focus areas have been identified: 1/ good leadership and vision from governments and citizens groups; 2/ sound governance facilitating integrated services; 3/ capacity building for staff, regulators and officials; 4/ adapted planning and decision making tools; 5/ adapted implementation tools, such as financing mechanisms.

Implemented fully, the 5Rs together with the right enabling environment will lead to sustainable water management in cities. For this reason, the Water and Cities Theme at the WWF, lead by IWA, will identify the challenges and opportunities in each of these 5 focus areas of enabling environment.

The IWA aims to enable the action needed from all stakeholders in the water sector and beyond. The IWA will coordinate those efforts and develop an Urban Water Charter to reach out to local governments, water professionals and city planning professionals, so that these concepts become the new water management paradigm for all cities of the future.

IWA’s Cities of the Future Programme at the 7th World Water Forum

Water Security for Cities through integrated urban planning and services

Date: Wednesday 15 April, 11.20 – 13.20
Venue: DEC_303 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 306

The opening session of the Water and Cities theme at the World Water Forum will set the scene for addressing cities in 2030. The session will cover urban water challenges, integrated water cycle approaches and integrated city planning approaches, and showcase successfulexample of both.
Conveners: International Water Association, UN Habitat

The Smart City: ICT effectively used to achieve water security

Date: Thursday 16 April, 11.20 – 13.20
Venue: DEC_303 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 306

This session will focus on identifying how innovative technologies can assist Cities optimize their water consumption, adapt water availability to demand, optimize energy efficiency of the services, find synergies between water, sanitation and other local services, in accordance with local economic, environmental and social criteria. Local authorities, cities and water operators, which have implemented innovative ICT, will share the levers and bottlenecks they’ve identified and their experience.

Conveners: International Water Association and SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT

Integrating grey, green and blue networks in existing and future cities

Date: Thursday 16 April, 14.40 – 16.40
Venue: DEC_306 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 320

This session will focus on how cities can transition to an integrated urban water cycle at the city planning level so that both developed and developing cities may achieve the right balance between green and grey infrastructures, connecting the urban areas to the watershed, building green and blue networks in the city – parks and waterways – that will contribute to an improved water supply and sanitation, biodiversity, and urban comfort.

Conveners: International Water Association and the Asian Development Bank

Concluding Session: Water and Cities

Date: Friday 17 April, 09.00 – 11.00
Venue: DEC_303 | DAEGU | EXCO | 3F Room 306

This session summarizes the Water and Cities Theme key messages in terms of resilience, capacity building, grey- green- and blue- networks, how the urban water resources can be used and recycled in an urban ecosystems approach, and the importance of ICT to enable integrated services. Challenges identified throughout the previous sessions will be formulated with a “theory of change” approach. One of the main challenges for Cities in the will be integrating water in urban planning with a cross sectoral and multidisciplinary approach, which is a technical, institutional, and regulatory challenge. Objectives and outputs will be summarized in the draft Implementation Roadmap (IR).

Conveners: International Water Association and UN Habitat

Want to connect with the IWA at the World Water Forum?

Find us on the 1st Floor of the Exhibition, Stand #C400

Katharine Cross

Strategy and Partnerships Lead, Australian Water Partnership
Katharine has extensive experience in the water sector from global to local scale with a focus on climate resilience and adaptation, nature-based solutions, water-energy-food nexus,  water governance and the digitalisation of the water sector. She h... Read full biography