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How can we ensure that we build water and climate resilient cities?

Diego Juan Rodriguez's picture

The World Bank at World Water Week 2015

As population and economic growth bump up against finite—and increasingly degraded—water resources, competition between agricultural, industrial, and municipal water uses increases, putting stress on existing water sources. This stress is felt most acutely in urban areas, particularly among the urban poor.
 
Moreover, urban water management systems are inefficient, leading to an uneven quantity and availability of water and related services. In addition, urban water management must consider the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and climate variability, on water resource availability.

Addressing these challenges requires building resilience not only in cities’ physical infrastructures but also in their social architecture, governance structures, financial systems, and ecosystems. A resilient city can adapt to changing conditions and withstand shocks while still providing essential services.

Integrated Water Management in Cities: Can we get it right this time?

While on its path to becoming the largest city in the Americas, Sao Paulo used its natural capital - water - to generate electricity, fuel industry, and satiate its ever-growing population. Natural infrastructure was traded for the concrete form and the city’s great rivers paid a high price for industrialization.

The result? Tremendous growth (averaging 5% per annum) that stimulated rapid and unplanned migration to the city and environmental pollution.  Urban sprawl generated little to no infrastructure for managing water, sanitation and wastewater, or solid waste.  Clearing the land for houses caused erosion and compacted soils, and the resulting increase in runoff has made an already wet city even more prone to floods.