By 2012, both Professor Kees van Leeuwen of KWR and Richard Elelman of the Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic and NETWERC H2O were publically stating at numerous international conferences that the World Economic Forum had identified the water supply crisis as one of the top three global risks for both the impact and likelihood.This situation has been caused by the decline in the quality and quantity of fresh water combined with increased competition among resource-intensive systems, such as food and energy production.
Work carried out by Siemens on the Green City Index had shown the challenges we face in cities and how important it is to involve the civil society and private parties to create success. The EU project TRUST (Transitions to the Urban Water Services of Tomorrow; http://www.trust-i.net/index.php) also demonstrated that cities and regions can improve their UWCS quickly and significantly if they are willing to share their best practices among each other and how important it is to further involve the civil society and companies to tackle the problems.
Over recent years, the project team at KWR developed a process, a method and an IT tool to provide a City Blueprint as baseline assessment for the sustainability of UWCS of cities and regions. A City Blueprint is the result of a transparent assessment of the sustainability of water management in a city. It engages citizens in water-related questions and provides them with insight into how their city compares with other leading cities around the globe. City Blueprints are targeted at citizens on the basis of the idea that it is they who are the drivers of innovation in their city. It is they who ensure the political continuity needed to accelerate innovations and to implement them through state-of-the-art water technology, thereby strengthening the city’s sustainability.
Fig.1 The function of the City Blueprint in the strategic planning process for UWCS according to SWITCH (Philip et al. 2011).
Fig.2 The City Blueprint of Malta based on 24 indicator scores. The range of the scores varies from 0 (centre of the circle) to 10 (periphery of the circle). The Blue City Index (BCI) of Malta is 4.9 and 8.5, Further details are provided in the text and in supporting information (European Commission, 2015b).
Introduced to each other by Robert Schroder of the EIP WATER, Richard Elelman and Kees van Leeuwen coordinated a proposal which in turn became the EIP WATER Action Group, CITY BLUEPRINTS.http://www.eip-water.eu/City_Blueprints
The framework of this EIP Water Action Group is to develop and implement further initiatives: (a) by creating awareness among potential partners (cities and regions), (b) by networking, (c) by sharing best UWCS practices among cities, and by (d) further development of tools that can facilitate implementation, such as a simple UWCS cost- benefit tool to allow cities and regions to provide their own solutions to the urban water challenges ahead.
The project team led by NetwercH2O and KWR Watercycle Research Institute involves a wide range of knowledge providers, administrative bodies, networks and regional authorities. The Action Group organizes interventions at the local level to overcome barriers in the water related governance systems that hinder the development and uptake of innovations in municipal water management.
More transparent governance and communication on urban water management options and technologies enables a more rapid introduction of state-of-the-art technologies and further improves the involvement of the civil society and the private sector in cities and would strengthen the collaboration between cities.
The water crisis is in fact mainly a water governance crisis. This was recently confirmed by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in their Principles on Water Governance and welcomed by Ministers at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 4 June 2015. The report can be found here: http://www.oecd.org/gov/regional-policy/OECD-Principles-on-Water-Governance-brochure.PDF
The EIP Water Action Group City Blueprints grew stronger and continued disseminating its activities proactively. It published its “proof of concept” in a publication for 11 cities (see Website City Blueprints Action Group: http://www.eip-water.eu/working-groups/city-blueprints-improving-implementation-capacities-cities-and-regions). An interim report on urban water management with blueprints of 25 cities was published in February 2014, whilst preparations with the Joint Research Council for a City Blueprints Atlas began. The Atlas will be produced by KWR, Netwerch20 and the Joint Research Centre.
City Blueprints are now available for the following 45 cities and regions in 27 different countries, mainly in Europe (see map): Algarve (Portugal), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Ankara (Turkey), Athens (Greece), Belém (Brazil), Berlin (Germany), Bologna (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), Bucharest (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Dordrecht (the Netherlands), Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Eslov (Sweden), Galati (Romania), Genova (Italy), Hamburg (Germany), Helsingborg (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Istanbul (Turkey), Jerusalem (Israel), KilambaKiaxi (Angola), Kristianstad (Sweden); Lodz (Poland), Lyon (France), London (UK), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Maastricht (The Netherlands), Malmö (Sweden), Malta (Malta), Manresa (Spain), Melbourne (Australia), New York (USA), Nieuwegein (the Netherlands), Oslo (Norway), Reggio Emilia (Italy), Reykjavic (Iceland), Rotterdam (The Netherlands), Scotland (UK), Stockholm (Sweden), Varna (Bulgaria), Venlo (the Netherlands), Wroclaw (Poland) and Zaragoza (Spain).
During this period, what also became increasingly clear was the need for the integration of water and waste within the Strategic Implementation Plan of the EIP Smart Cities and Communities which to date has focused exclusively on Energy, Transport and ICT. The absence of other relevant topics such as water, wastewater, solid waste and climate change mitigation and adaptation is a great omission. Smarter cities are cities with a coherent long-term social, economic and ecological agenda. Smarter cities are water-wise cities that integrate water, waste water, energy, solid waste, transport, ICT, climate adaptation and nature (blue-green infrastructure) to create an attractive place to live. Smarter cities implement a circular economy, focus on social innovation and, last but not least, greatly improve on governance.
And it was with this philosophy that the BlueSCities project was born on the 1st of February, 2015.