Managing Centres of Booming Water Expectations in Basins of Change

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In dry climate regions under development, economically driven water demands are making urban areas into booming demand bubbles in resource constrained river basins, subject to ongoing climate change. Since meeting such water requirements is a precondition for economic development, long lead times and limited hydrologically defined basin water potentials, the water supply arrangements need preparedness and advance planning by coordination with other catchment activities to ensure mutual water security.  Since the water resource has to meet also other basic, and often expanding water uses in the basin, such as for food and renewable energy, these water requirements represent considerable challenges. Resilience building will be crucial to secure both long term health, food, manufacturing, and energy security, and the economic development in such demand bubbles. This means a water resilience, supported by governance and management regimes that ensure favourable partitioning of rainfall over the basin into green and blue water flows through the land use mosaic with its booming urban centres.


Chair: Dr. Line Gordon, SRC

14:00  Opening of Seminar
           Mr. Torgny Holmgren, SIWI

14:05  Centres of Booming Water Expectations – a Global Outlook.
           Prof. Malin Falkenmark, SIWI and SRC

14:20  The Resilience Lens Applied on Booming Water Futures.
           Dr. Johan Rockström, SRC

14:40  Energy and Economic Growth – Can Future Demand for Energy be Met in a Sustainable Manner?
            Mr. Per Klevnäs, SEI

15:00  Case 1: Rural and Urban Water Conflicts – Kathmandu and Melamchi River.
           Dr. Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation


15:20  Coffee Break


15:45  Case 2: Increased Energy Demand for Serving Water in Chinese Cities: Qingdao Case.
           Dr. Lijin Zhong, WRI

16:05  Case 3: Sustainable Urban Water and Energy Solutions in Africa.
           Dr. Akissa Bahri, African Water Facility

16:20  Panel Discussion.
           Moderator: Dr. Johan Kuylenstierna, SEI

  •     Mr. Per Klevnäs, SEI
  •     Dr. Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Water Conservation Foundation
  •     Dr. Lijin Zhong, WRI
  •     Dr. Akissa Bahri, African Water Facility
  •     Dr. Johan Rockström, SRC

17:20  Summary. Dr. Mats Eriksson, SIWI

17:30  End of Seminar


The core topic of the seminar was the challenge to reach urban water security. Cities are engines of economic growth, but that also raises water expectations, which might turn into constrains for growth. Many of the booming water centres are also located in regions with high water stress such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Prof. Malin Falkenmark, SIWI & SRC, set the scene painting a grim picture of challenges with competing water demand, water pollution issues (80 percent of urban waste water outflow left untreated) and doubling of domestic water demand. Large cities are seen as islands but have to enter into a continued network of water flows. Five year plans will help prepare for urgency and attention to drought and floods.

Dr. Johan Rockström, SRC, pointed to the dilemma that in our new hyper connected world where ecological, social and economic tensions create direct reactions, we still do not completely understand the links between rural and urban systems. Two thirds of cities have not yet been built so there is an enormous potential for building resilient cities and acknowledge its dependence on retaining water within basins. 

Mr. Per Klevnäs, SEI, focused on urban centres from an energy perspective. The main point made was that we can meet the future energy need in a sustainable way. The 15 year outlook presented an opportunity to change policy to meet the enormous challenge of access to energy and a growing demand in general. The use of renewable energy is already closing the gap and there are even more innovation possibilities. Potential energy efficiency gains is the biggest opportunity and still largely untapped source of energy.

Three city examples put the issues under scrutiny from different angles. Dr. Dipak Gyawali of the Nepal Water Conservation Foundation criticised the lock-in effects by large development infrastructure projects and donor incoherence. In Quingdao along the north-eastern coast of China high water risks are exacerbated by economic and population growth. There is a need to use non-conventional water sources for energy production but this consideration is forgotten in planning. Dr. Lijin Zhong, WRI, recommended to exploit unconventional water resources. The population of urban centres in Africa will nearly quadruple, keeping the world’s most rapid rate of urbanisation so closing the water and energy loops are imperative for planning. Rainwater harvesting, storm water management, treatment of water, and land use planning are main priorities. The regional water and energy markets are growing in Africa, but there are still gaps in integrating energy and water planning and cross-sectoral understanding, argued Dr. Akissa Bahri of the African Water Facility.

The panel discussed the topic of cities as dwellings, resource hungry engines, and vehicles of change. The limitations of integrated approaches, compared to resilience approaches were highlighted as well as the limitations of planning on the higher levels above household. The link between water, energy and food production was highlighted - when planning for either make sure not to omit the other. This is both an institutional, academic and policy limitation.

- See more at: Swedish Water House Blog

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