Integrated urban water management (IUWM) aims to incorporate all parts of the water cycle and recognizes them as integrated systems while considering water demands for residential, industrial, agricultural and ecological consumptions. The approach of IUWM emerged based on experience that sub-optimal outcomes have been achieved by the traditional approach. IUWM provides the opportunity to optimize the whole urban water system and to minimize water consumption, costs and energy. To improve IUWM, a much deeper understanding of the interfaces and interconnections between the different resources streams in cities in particular the water – energy – food nexus is required.
The game changing technologies previously referred need to be coupled with comprehensive system changes to the urban water system. Despite improvement in the performance and efficiency of the component parts of urban water systems, change is needed at a system-wide level as well. The high-level relationships among water resources, energy, and land use in an urbanizing world have to be recognized. The overall objective of the focal area is to explore integrated approaches that ensure the need for system changes through the integrated management approaches. This comprises five activities: integrated urban water management (IUWM), urban metabolism, flexible and adaptive approaches, water sensitive urban design and transitioning.
- Study the potential application of flexible and adaptive design to urban water management, identify promising directions and propose ways and means to develop and apply meaningfully this concept in cities in diverse socio-economic, cultural and physical environments, considering the possible consequences of global changes, including demographics, climate change, land use change, changing consumption patterns and technological advances. The presence of slums and marginal peri-urban areas will be integrated into the analysis considering the attendant institutional, social and economic implications.
- Perform comparative studies of urban metabolism models with significance to urban water management and potential applicability.
- Compile and analyze cases where water sensitive urban design has been applied since its inception over 20 years ago, evaluate the state-of-the-art, including restoration of urban streams, and recommend the relevant applications, particularly in cities of the developing world.
- Identify the characteristics of existing transition models: principles, objectives, scope, and required information; select case studies with description of current and desired scenarios and evaluate results from the application of models, including the possibility of “leapfrogging” to accelerate development, particularly in developing countries.
- Support regional activities and inter-regional cooperation in aspects addresses under this focal area, incorporating relevant regional initiatives such as SWITCH-in-Asia, and the contribution of the regional and international water-related centres under the auspices of UNESCO and of UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.