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).
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.
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.
The City Blueprint methodology is used for:
- Assessing the trends and pressures in municipalities and regions.
- Assessing the UWCS performances in municipalities and regions.
- 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.
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.
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.
Participation in the City Blueprint process requires little effort whereas it can produce high returns. It shows the city exactly what steps they want to take towards making Urban Water Cycle Services (UWCS) sustainable. It starts with completing the questionnaire provided in the Toolsheet. This is done by the city and experts from KWR will check the source data and complete them whenever needed. This guarantees an optimal and independent assessment of the baseline situation and allows for a comparison with other cities, providing the city insight into its most important strengths and weaknesses.
We will then work together in defining the right direction and goals for UWCS, show the most rewarding points of improvement and show cities that have already implemented measures to seize these opportunities. Finally, we will also show which Watershare tools can be useful for reaching the city’s own formulated ambitions on their path towards water-wise. In 2015, we revised the City Blueprint to incorporate constructive feedback from cities, to better separate city performances from trends and pressures that can hardly be influenced by local authorities, to include solid waste indicators, and to improve the framework balance by statistically analyzing the results for 45 municipalities and regions.
Software & downloads
The City Blueprint process in an interactive approach that involves all stakeholders early on in the process. It is a first step in the strategic understanding and long-term planning of the city’s water management. We provide two separate frameworks:’
- Trends and pressures framework
- City Blueprint performance framework
1. Trends and pressures
The trends and pressure framework provides a wider context to the city’s own unique circumstances that shape everyday urban water management but can hardly be influenced the city. The framework provides supplementary information to the City Blueprint performance framework. The 12 descriptive trends and pressure indicators are equally distrusted over a social, environmental and financial category, based on key information from international organizations.
2. City Blueprint performance
The City Blueprint performance framework consists of 25 indicators divided over 7 broad categories providing a full picture of the entire urban water cycle:
- Water quality
- Solid waste
- Basic water services
- Wastewater treatment
- Climate robustness
City Blueprint’s implementation steps
For the City Blueprint baseline assessment the following practical steps are undertaken:
1. Information collection
This is done through by filling out a questionnaire:
- First we provide a literature search to answer as much questions as possible
- Next, we ask the city to check our data and provide information regarding the other indicators
- Thirdly, we perform a final data quality check that is communicated to the city.
2. Information processing
The information is used to calculate the indicator scores on a scale of 0 (attention needed) to 10 (no further attention needed). Moreover, the degree of concern score of the trends and pressures framework is calculated.
The city’s results are set in a context, by drawing on literature references from the City Blueprint, other cities’ assessments and explanations.
Taking steps toward sustainability
After the independent baseline assessment, the city can be compared with other cities, providing valuable insights and exchange of knowledge and experiences. We will then work together in defining the right direction for your UWCS. Finally, the City Blueprint is an essential first step in showing which Watershare tools are useful for reaching the city’s own formulated ambitions. These are the supporting steps towards water-wise cities that the city Blueprint baseline assessment can provide.
There are several forms of support available to ensure that you optimize your use of the City Blueprint, and that you are updated on all the latest developments. Specifically, you can make use of the following options to suit your particular situation:
- A short introductory – or more elaborate – course on the sustainability of Urban Water Cycle Services for you, your clients and other stakeholders.
- Expanded or modified City Blueprint functionalities to create tailored solutions.
- Consultancy services, including technical and organizational process management, priority setting, advice on creating support for change and on reporting.
Further advice on follow-up research and urban water-related projects.
Mentioned in: 30 Reports and Publications
Enrolled in: more than 50 Cases in more than 30 Countries
Reports and publications
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., Frijns, J., van Wezel, A., van de Ven, F.H.M. (2011). Duurzaamheid stedelijke waterketen af te leiden uit 24 indicatoren. H2O 13 35-38.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. (2012). City Blueprints voor elf steden: wat zeggen de sterren?. H2O 25/26 35-39.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., Frijns, J., van Wezel, A., van de Ven, F.H.M. (2012). City Blueprints: 24 indicators to assess the sustainability of the urban water cycle. Water Resources Management 26: 2177–2197.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., Chandy, P.C. (2013). The city blueprint: experiences with the implementation of 24 indicators to assess the sustainability of the urban water cycle. Water Science and Technology: Water Supply 13.3 769-781.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. and N-P Bertram (2013). Baseline assessment and best practices in urban water cycle services in the city of Hamburg. Bluefacts 2013: 10-16.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. and N-P Bertram. (2013). Wasserwirtschaftliche Grundlagenbeurteilung europäischer Metropolen und Regionen – Ergebnisse für Hamburg. energie | wasser-praxis – DVGW-Jahresrevue 12/2013.
- Van Leeuwen, K., Marques, RC. 2013. Current State of Sustainability of Urban Water Cycle Services. TRANSITIONS TO THE URBAN WATER SERVICES OF TOMORROW. D11.1 TOWARDS A BASELINE ASSESSMENT OF THE SUSTAINABILITY OF URBAN WATER CYCLE SERVICES. BASELINE ASSESSMENT OF THE SUSTAINABILITY OF URBAN WATER CYCLE SERVICES.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. (2013). City Blueprints: baseline assessment for water management in 11 cities of the future. Water Resources Management 27:5191–5206 DOI 10.1007/s11269-013-0462-5.
- Van Leeuwen, K. (2014). Water in the city. Inaugural speech (in Dutch; Figures in English). Oratie Universiteit Utrecht. Faculteit Geowetenschappen-Universiteit Utrecht. ISBN 978 90 6266 358 33. Available at:
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., Sjerps, R. (2014). City Blueprints® of 30 cities and regions (Report and Annexes). KWR Watercycle Research Institute. Project T550004. Nieuwegein, the Netherlands.
- Van Leeuwen, K. (2015). Too little water in too many cities. Learning Discourse. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 11/1: 171-173.
- Easton, P., Sjerps, R., Van Leeuwen, K. (2015). Istanbul, City of Water. Revolve Magazine. Water & Energy Around the Mediterranean, 20-29.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., Sjerps, R. (2015). The City Blueprint of Amsterdam. An assessment of integrated water resources management in the capital of the Netherlands. Water Science and Technology; Water Supply 15.2: 4040-410.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J., NP Dan and C. Dieperink. (2015). The challenges of water governance in Ho Chi Minh City. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. 12/2: 345–352.
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. (2015). Water governance and the quality of water services in the city of Melbourne. Urban Water Journal. DOI 10.1080/1573062X.2015 (published online).
- Koop, S., van Loosdrecht, L., van Leeuwen, K. (2015). City Blueprints. Duurzaamheidsanalyse van de stedelijke waterketen in 45 steden. (2015) H2O 10: 60-61.
- Koop, S.H.A. and C.J. Van Leeuwen. (2015). Application of the Improved City Blueprint Framework in 45 municipalities and regions. BlueSCities Deliverable D2.2. Coordination and Support Action 642354 of the European Commission (KWR report 2015.025), 130 pp.
- Koop, S.H.A. and C.J. Van Leeuwen. (2015). Assessment of the Sustainability of Water Resources Management: A Critical Review of the City Blueprint Approach. Water Resources Management. 29:5649–5670.
- Koop, S.H.A. and C.J. Van Leeuwen. (2015). Application of the Improved City Blueprint Framework in 45 municipalities and regions. Water Resources Management, 29(13), 4629-4647.
- Mottaghi, M. Aspegren, H., Jönsson, K. (2015). The necessity for re-thinking the way we plan our cities with the focus on Malmö. Towards urban-planning based urban runoff management. Vatten 2015-1: 37-44.
- Stef Koop, Kees van Leeuwen, Alexandre Bredimas, Mona Arnold, Christos Makropoulos and Frederic Clarens (2015). D2.3. Compendium of best practices for water, waste water, solid waste and climate adaptation. (KWR report 2015.025).
- Van Leeuwen, C.J. and Sjerps R. (2016). Istanbul: the challenges of integrated water resources management in Europa's Megacity. Environment, Development and Sustainability. Volume 18(1), 1-17.
- Koop, S.H.A. and Van Leeuwen, C.J.(2016). The challenges of water, waste and climate change in cities. Environment, Development and Sustainability, DOI :10.1007/s10668-016-9760-4.
- Koop, S., van Loosdrecht, L., van Leeuwen, K. (2016). City Blueprints. Duurzaamheidsanalyse van de stedelijke waterketen in 45 steden. (2016) TVVL Magazine 01: 26-29.
- Drewes, J.E., Verstraete, W., Van Leeuwen, K., Elelman, R. 2016. The role of water in the circular economy. The Source (the quarterly magazine of the International Water Association), Q1, 62-67.
- Van Leeuwen, K. and Koop, S. 2016. City Blueprints: Assessment of sustainable water management in European cities. Global Water Forum. Posted on March 21, 2016 in Urban Water.
- Koop, S.H.A. and Van Leeuwen, C.J. 2016. The challenges of water, waste and climate change in cities. Global Water Forum. Posted on June 13, 2016 in Urban Water.
- Van Leeuwen C.J., Koop S.H.A. and Sjerps R.M.A. (2016). City Blueprints: baseline assessments of water management and climate change in 45 cities. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 18(4), pp. 1113-1128.
- Scheurs, E., Koop, S.H.A., Van Leeuwen, C.J. 2016.Application of the City Blueprint Approach to assess the challenges of water management and governance in Quito (Ecuador). Environment, Development and Sustainability DOI 10.1007/s10668-017-9916-x
Videos, brochures and news articles
- Video 1 of the City Blueprint Approach (CBA1)
- Video 2 of the City Blueprint Approach (CBA2)
- Review Environment, Development and Sustainability
- D 2 3 BlueSCities Compendium of best practices-final (.pdf)
- Individual reports of these cities can be found in Reports and Publications.
- The City Blueprint of Istanbul
- The City Blueprint of Dar es Salaam, Venlo and Maastricht
- The City Blueprint of Ho Chi Minh City
- The City Blueprint of Amsterdam
- The City Blueprint of Melbourne
- The summary publication for 45 cities
- The improved City Blueprint framework and its application
- "Amsterdam gebruikt 20 tot 30 miljoen liter water extra tijdens hittegolf" (in Dutch)
- Parool: Water use in Amsterdam (in Dutch)
- E-Brochure City Blueprint Approach (2017)