Towards a Holistic Approach of Used Water Management as Integral Part of Urban Development
The rapidly growing population of cities will further exacerbate the already existing severe impacts of untreated used water on public health and environment. However, in many regions the management of waste water, respectively used water, is still a step-child of urban development.
Certainly, the improvement of urban settlements through the focus on solely single or a mix of wastewater treatment technologies is often not the silver bullet to create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable settlements and might even result in an enlargement of the problem, if for example the sanitation value chain is not given and taken care of. There is evidence, that more livable and inclusive cities, particularly in water-scarce countries, can only be established by the implementation of innovative concepts of water resource management.
Experiences – not only made in emerging economies and developing countries – show the need to overcome traditional patterns of infrastructure development as a mainly hardware driven water supply, sewerage and flood control and to bring into practice innovative approaches that are based on a holistic view of urban development.
There is definitely the need for an integrated urban sanitation process that goes beyond the driver of public health. It has to become an integral part of cross sectoral planning and development processes that may cover water, energy, transport, ecosystems/micro-climate, recreation/amenity, and others. Such processes should be based on a multi-stakeholder learning across social, technical, economic, design and ecological spheres, which result in a co-management between government, business and communities. This is especially the case, if climate change sensitive concepts such as “water cycle cities” and “water sensitive cities” shall become reality.
In this regard, more realistic legal frameworks need to be elaborated that can drive a progressive implementation process where a wide range of topics such as discharge standards, design standards, administrative procedures and tariffs can be carefully adapted to local conditions. This should open markets for treatment systems, innovative solutions and concepts that are adapted to the physical urban, socio-economic and financial situation of the cities and that allow a more integrated and sustainable management of the total water cycle.
Under the premise of a progressive approach, holistic and inclusive service packages need to be developed addressing various aspects of used water management to further develop communities and settlements into livable spaces. Stage wise implementation approaches are necessary to cope with realistic infrastructure and community development in the sense of appropriateness and affordability of the respective measures.
The way forward to livable and inclusive cities through a progressive implementation can only be successful if the approach is accompanied by financial models (subsidies, micro-finance, private sector partnership and adequate tariff structures), social planning tools such as CLUES (Community Led Urban Environmental Planning), impact monitoring processes as well as capacity development schemes for local craftsmen, institutions and small medium enterprises, as essential elements of integrated used water management sector plans.
BORDA e.V. (Bremen Overseas Research & Development Association) is a specialist organization active in the fields of poverty alleviation, sustainable protection of natural resources and the strengthening of social structures.