Topic 1: Creating a new paradigm for urban water cycles

Challenge Description

Urban areas worldwide face escalating challenges concerning water resource management exacerbated by climate change impacts. The pressing challenge lies in ensuring sustainable water access amidst escalating demands, contamination risks, and ecosystem alterations resulting from urbanisation and climate change. This topic underscores the need for a paradigm shift in urban water management strategies towards resilience and circularity. It seeks to address the imperative to improve water resource management within cities and urban environments to mitigate scarcity, enhance quality, and bolster resilience against climate impacts, risks and vulnerabilities.



Proposals submitted under this topic must address the multifaceted challenges of urban water management and resilience, in both existing urban areas and new development areas. Projects should focus on redesigning urban water supply chains for enhanced circularity, leveraging blue-green infrastructure to bolster sustainability and resilience, and fostering community capacity building for informed decision-making and sustainable water use practices. Research questions should revolve around identifying innovative solutions for sustainable water management, assessing the impact of climate change on urban water systems, and integrating nature-based approaches into urban planning, design, architecture and landscape architecture to mitigate risks associated with water scarcity and quality.


Project proposals submitted under this topic should address one or several of the following questions:

  • How can urban water supply chains be redesigned to improve circularity, considering the diverse activities and scales within cities and urban areas?


  • How can the efficient use and reuse of diverse water resources as well as blue-green infrastructures contribute to ensure water security in the built environment?


  • What strategies are effective for capacity building within urban communities to promote active engagement in decision-making processes related to water management and conservation?


  • What innovative measures can be implemented for the maintenance, renovation, and refurbishment of existing water infrastructure in urban (re)developments to improve storage, longevity and effectiveness?


  • How can water management within built and living environments, including public spaces, be designed and adapted to mitigate and adapt to water-related effects of climate change (i.e. droughts, floods, urban heat island effect, etc.), and address different conceptualisations and & aspects of resilience and of circularity? What economic considerations and measures are essential for ensuring the resilience and robustness of public water services, and how can they be integrated with other sectors for comprehensive planning and management?


  • What governance arrangements can be developed to make supported and legitimised decisions on urban water management preparing for crisis, and in times of crisis? (i.e. which areas will be flooded, impacted by drought, which functions / areas are allocated water)?


Expected Outputs and Outcomes

Rather than provide isolated technical solutions, projects are expected to address this topic in a systemic way. Project outcomes should be impact-oriented and process-oriented, and therefore as concrete and user-centred as possible. Expected outputs and outcomes include, but are not limited to:


  • Insights for addressing and reshaping urban water management practices, with an emphasis on optimising water resource utilisation, water treatment facilities and water related climate adaptation and mitigation measures in the urban environment and on a water system level


  • Producing measurable enhancements in the resilience, sustainability and adaptability of urban environments in relation to water systems.


  • Delivering innovative solutions, best practices, and policy recommendations tailored to enhance the sustainability of water management in urban areas.


  • Building and extracting knowledge to build cross-border policies on urban water management practices, addressing different water management challenges exist in different climate zones in Europe.


Such outputs may manifest in various forms, including technical reports, policy briefs, toolkits and guidelines targeting practitioners and policymakers alike. These deliverables aim to equip stakeholders with actionable insights and strategies to effectively navigate the complexities of urban water management.