Helping cities face the water challenges of the future

City Blueprint - Start

Extreme weather events that leave city streets under water in no time. Or protracted drought that renders a city’s water supply incapable of meeting its needs. Two extreme cases that become more and more a reality because of climate change, and especially since urbanization is rapidly increasing. In 2050, 87% of the population in developed countries will be living in cities. At about that time, water supply will fall short of demand by 40%. The consequences of climate change leave cities no choice: they are forced to adapt their water cycles because the cost of inaction is very high. But how can a city quickly grasp which elements of it water cycle are already sustainable and which need to be adapted? The City Blueprint is a practical communicative tool that can help cities on their path to be become sustainable water-wise cities.

The City Blueprint® Approach

The City Blueprint® Approach is a diagnosis tool and consists of three complementary frameworks. The main challenges of cities are assessed with the Trends and Pressures Framework (TPF). How cities are managing their water cycle is done with the City Blueprint® Framework (CBF). Where cities can improve their water governance is done with the Governance Capacity Framework (GCF). Two short videos have been made about the City Blueprint Approach. The GCF is a new framework and has been applied in Amsterdam, Quito (Ecuador), Melbourne, New York City and Ahmedabad (India).

City Blueprint Approach

Short history

The challenges in cities are the reason why we developed the City Blueprint methodology. We have done this in a learning-by-doing fashion. In 2011 we assessed our first city: Rotterdam. The City Blueprint is a baseline assessment of the sustainability of water management in a municipality (or other dominantly urban region). It allows a city to quickly understand how advanced it is in sustainable water management and to compare its status with other cities. The City Blueprint Approach is part of the Watershare community as well as an action under the European Innovation Partnership on Water (EIP-water). As part of the H2020 BlueSCities project, we will advise the European Commission on the uptake of water and waste in their smart city policy. The activity is also linked to the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities. With this approach we have assessed nearly 60 municipalities and regions in 30 countries. Detailed reports are available for 9 cities (Rotterdam, Dar es Salaam, Hamburg, Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh City, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Quito (Ecuador) and Ahmedabad in India). Climate adaptation options have been reviewed for the City of Malmö.

The TPF and CBF

In 2015, we published a critical review of the City Blueprint® methodology. Based on constructive feedback from cities we decided to distinguish a Trends and Pressures Framework (TPF) and the City Blueprint Framework (CBF). The TPF summarizes the main social, environmental and financial aspects on which cities have hardly any influence, whereas the CBF provides a clear overview of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) performance and its bottlenecks in municipalities and regions. The CBF indicators are divided over the following seven categories: water quality, solid waste treatment, basic water services, wastewater treatment, infrastructure, climate robustness and governance.

smart city policy

City Blueprint benefits

  • The City Blueprint reveals at a glance precisely where a city’s strong and weak points lie and can serve as the key first step in strategic long-term planning to realize cities to be sustainable and water-wise.
  • City Blueprints is an easy to understand interactive tool serving strategic decisions. The actual assessment is done together with key stakeholders ensuring usable results and quick access to expert knowledge.
  • City Blueprints offers a platform that enhances city-to-city learning, exchange of best practices. Cities can learn important practical lessons from other cities that have already implemented best practices.
  • The City Blueprint platform is expanding with at present, 57 cities in 30 different countries.

More about the City Blueprint

Publications about the City Blueprint method in 2015 reported assessments for 45 municipalities and regions in 27 different countries, mainly in Europe. The overall score, the Blue City Index (BCI) is different per city showing the potential gain of city-to-city learning in Europe and beyond. Currently we have assessed nearly 60 cities in 30 countries.

Citie Blueprint Cities

The City Blueprint methodology is used for:

  1. Assessing the trends and pressures in municipalities and regions.
  2. Assessing the UWCS performances in municipalities and regions.
  3. Detailed case studies have been published for the cities of Rotterdam, Dar es Salaam, Hamburg, Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh, Amsterdam and Melbourne. Recently we have submitted a full review of Quito (Ecuador), that is in press now. We are about to publish a full review of Ahmedabad (India) and a paper about six cities in the USA.

1. Trends and pressures

The 12 descriptive trends and pressure indicators are scaled from 0 to 4 points, and the following classes have been used: 0-0.5 points (no concern), 0.5-1.5 points (little concern), 1.5-2.5 points (medium concern), 2.5-3.5 points (concern) 3.5-4.0 points (great concern). The overall score, the Trends and Pressures Index (TPI) provides a basic overview of the social, environmental and financial pressures. Data have been gathered and we have applied it again on the 45 municipalities and regions, mainly in Europe. Key results of the analysis of these 45 municipalities and regions are shown below. The financial (red), environmental (green) and social (blue) pressures are shown together with the Blue City Index® (BCI), the geometric mean of the 25 indicators of the City Blueprint. The BCI can vary from 0 (concern) to 10 (no concern). The geographical distribution of the BCI is given as well.

The overall score

2. City Blueprint performances

The performance-oriented set of indicators provides a snapshot of the current UWCS performances. The indicator scores of each city are shown in a spider diagram. Furthermore, the Blue City Index® or BCI is the overall score of the 25 indicators which varies from 0 to 10 points. The BCI shows profound differences between cities. Moreover, cities with much pressures (cities that have a high TPI) are cities with low BCI performance scores. These cities have the most serious water challenges. Also within Europe differences in performances are substantial showing the room improvements by exchanging knowledge, experiences and best practices.

 City Blueprint performances


3. Governance Capacity Framework

According to the OECD, water governance is the set of rules, practices, and processes through which decisions for the management of water resources and services are taken and implemented, and decision-makers are held accountable. Good water governance is the real challenge. The City Blueprint Approach (TPF+CBF+GCF) is just the first step (the baseline assessment) in a long-term journey of communication and co-operation within and between cities. Based on an extensive literature study, we have proposed a Governance Capacity Framework that focuses on 5 water-related challenges: 1) flood risk, 2) water scarcity, 3) urban heat islands, 4) waste water treatment and 5) solid waste treatment. These are amongst the most reoccurring issues that will steadily increase in importance due to global trends of climate change and urbanization. The Governance Capacity Framework is now further developed in a separate Watershare tool.

Tool Expert(s)

Kees van Leeuwen

Kees van Leeuwen

+31(0)30 606 9617

Stef Koop

Stef Koop

+31 (0)30-6069649

Forecasts of water scarcity in the world's cities mean that urban water management will become increasingly critical in the years to come. In response, cities have to develop Integrated Urban Water Management. To start with, what they need is to conduct a quick-scan assessment, build an interactive approach and share best-practices.

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