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The Water‐Sensitive City: Implications of an urban water management paradigm and its globalization

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The urban water management (UWM) community is embracing a paradigm shift to tackle the escalating water stress experienced in several cities globally, as existing challenges are predicted to be exacerbated by climate change and population growth. The term “Water Sensitive City” (WSC) is widely used in literature to describe this new ideal to aim for, where cities will successfully deliver safe and reliable water services to all, now and in the future, in an eco‐friendly manner. This green, long‐term vision implies a large amount of stakeholder coordination and institutional support, as well as participatory community engagement. Examining the foundations and principles of the WSC as well as the experiences in its application, impacts and limitations, particularly in the Global South, provides a space to further contribute to the dynamic field of UWM and governance. This article provides a condensed overview of the WSC approach and related emerging conversations in the urban water sector across a range of disciplines: the objective is to nurture reflection from young professionals entering the field of UWM, but also to offer an opportunity for more experienced scholars and practitioners to take a step back in considering this rising approach from different perspectives.

This article is categorized under:

  • Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
  • Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation
  • Engineering Water > Planning Water
Summary of evolving paradigms in water management over time: the left‐hand side boxes show elements of the recognized chaos (challenges) in the real world, while boxes (paradigms) on the right‐hand side illustrate the conceptualization of their conciliation. When moving upward, previously recognized challenges are not necessarily assumed to be solved. The three upper challenges (in grey boxes) are noted to be of institutional nature. The MII, in spite of the emergence of contrasting paradigms over the life span of existing water infrastructure in several cities worldwide, still prevails in most parts of the world in practice
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Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation
Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
Engineering Water > Planning Water

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