Stockholm International Water Institute / City of Stockholm / International Water Association / The World Bank Group / United Nations Human Settlements Programme

Smart solutions in water and waste management for liveable cities

Wednesday 30 August | 14.00-15.30 | Room: NL 461

Water supply, sanitation and stormwater are integral components of and/or directly interfere with the urban water system, yet they are often not planned or operated in an integrated way. Viewing them as a single system can greatly enhance the utility of water, both in the context of everyday operations and under stress. Minimizing the movement of water, reducing leakage, maximizing reuse and redefining waste as a resource can optimize the productive use of water and reduce pollution. Fostering rural-urban linkages can lead to mutual benefits and synergies at the water-food-energy nexus. Active participation of multiple sectors and communities is required, as is a proactive, holistic urban water planning approach to minimize conflicts and ecological impacts.

Systems Thinking for Water and Waste Management for Liveable Cities (session 3 of 3) will present real-life application of systems thinking to integrated urban water management, including the interactions of water supply, onsite/reticulated sanitation, stormwater and more, especially in developing countries. By examining exemplary cities from around the world, challenges and successes will be highlighted, which can feed into strategies to operationalize the SDGs, the new urban agenda of Habitat III, and the IWA Principles for Water-Wise Cities.


Systems Thinking for Water and Waste Management for Liveable Cities

14:00 Introduction
Kala Vairavamoorthy, International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

14:10 Systems thinking for sustainable urban water management
Sabine Hoffmann
, Eawag

14:25 Q&A and Participant polling

14:30 Panel introduction
Moderator: Martin Gambrill, World Bank

  • Maria Lennartsson, Stockholm City Council
  • Walelegn Desalegn, Addis Ababa City Council
  • Firmino da Silveira Soares Filho, Mayor of Teresina (Brazil)
  • Rachel Cardone, RedThread Advisors LLC

14:50 Panel discussion 
Moderator: Martin Gambrill, World Bank

15:20 Conclusions
Maria Angelica Sotomayor, World Bank

15:25 Closing of seminar
Phil Graham, Belgian Development Agency (BTC) & Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI)

15:30 Close of session


The seminar Smart solutions in water and waste management for liveable cities – resulted in three main learning points. First, smart solutions for liveable cities require a holistic approach to water management. A holistic approach adopts landscape-wide planning (recognizing the need of cross-sectoral water users, both in the upstream and downstream area), optimizes resource recovery and reuse within the water cycle (treating wastewater and stormwater as a resource), while also actively embracing public participation both for planning and implementation purposes. However, fragmentation of responsible institutions within the water sector has been recognized as a serious barrier to this. Greater coordination and collaboration among these institutions holds the key for realization of smart solutions.

Second, the best practice for implementing smart solutions calls for a problem-based approach. Participatory public engagement is one of the main ingredients for untangling and comprehensively formulating complex water issues and, then, for shaping smart solutions. Human and institutional capacity development should be viewed as important as infrastructure development, and should be encouraged to mainstream the practice of community-centred and problem-led solutions. Resources (human and capital), vision and persistence (from political actors and the public) are the cornerstones for adopting smart solutions that would enable fast-growing cities in developing countries to ‘leap-frog’ towards water-sensitive cities and avoid the mistakes of developed cities. Teresina and Addis Ababa show encouraging examples of this process.

Third, it was noted that informal settlements ‘pay more and receive less’ in terms of urban water services. Although re-location has been pushed in many instances, this is no longer seen as a viable solution, except for cases with high disaster risk. More adaptive approaches that integrate informal settlements in a way that recognizes their uniqueness are needed. Decentralized water systems offer this opportunity and can be the smart solutions to provide improved services to these communities.

Lastly, recognizing that water sits within a system of systems in cities (e.g. transport, energy, urban planning), successful implementation of smart solutions requires water practitioners to be proactive in informing and influencing urban form. An urban integrated systems-thinking paradigm is imperative for achieving SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities). Key principles embodied by this paradigm include: 1. adoption of a systemic view: integrating different systems within cities (water supply, sanitation and stormwater drainage) and mapping stakeholder groups (roles and interactions among them); 2. coordination and management between water and sanitation systems and components of the water cycle: leading to centralized management in decentralized schemes; 3. optimization of water productivity: reduce wasted water, reuse water and re-generate high-quality water; 4. wastewater as a resource: optimizing the recovery of water, energy and nutrients; 5. realignment of technologies and institutions: sustaining the inter-compatibility of both aspects through consistent review and refit; 6. inclusive stakeholder involvement: inducing change through inter-sectorial and inter-disciplinary efforts from research, practice and policy actors.