Transforming an International Water Conference to ‘Towards the Blue-Green City’
“While the vision of a water-sensitive city is a universal one, city managers will need to craft an approach that learns from their own successes and failures, and those of others in cities around the world, and establish an approach that suits their unique context.” — “Towards the Blue-Green City”
“Towards the Blue-Green City: Building Urban Water Resilience” offers new essays on how we progress towards the “sponge city”, ensuring we adapt to climate change and improve water security for all communities.
In 2020, over 150 scientists, community organizers, non-profit leaders and more convened in Cape Town, South Africa following the averted Day Zero water crisis. While we may think of cities as gray slabs of concrete criss-crossed by tar or dirt roads, cities have the potential to be much more. From the Water Resource Commission in South Africa, “Towards the Blue-Green City: Building Urban Water Resilience” offers case studies, lessons learned, and other research for bringing together cities and the environment.
Over half of the world’s population lives in an urban area. For more than 4.4 billion people, water is piped across streets directly to private or public taps for everyday life. But it is the availability of this water that is most difficult and challenging. Water availability means anyone– a healthcare worker, a mother, a mechanic, or a teacher–has access to the amount and quality of water they need whenever they need it. In the complicated network that overlays and supports urban life, delivering water affordably and sustainably is no small feat.
“Towards the Blue-Green City” emerged after the 2020 “Cities Facing Escalating Water Shortages” conference in Cape Town, hosted at the University of the Western Cape. Six teams conducted extensive research and participated in a unique facilitation method to prioritize intervention areas. The task teams covered natural sciences, the social sciences, politics and governance, economics, the technical sciences, and civil society. They were challenged to draw from the depths of their experiences for contributions and insights only they could provide. Likewise, teams explored themes that cut across silos, revealing underlying similarities and differences between disciplines. The research conducted before, during, and after this convening shaped and continues to shape W12+ programs to this day.
Most research on water security is communicated by and to the same people. “Towards the Blue-Green City”, and the conference where its authors first convened, seeks to speak across departments and disciplines to help practitioners in urban water security solve the real, complex, interwoven challenges that water inherently entails.