More than half of the global population live in cities: cities are appealing. But they are also vulnerable. Earthquakes, floods, terror, epidemics: disasters can be a fact of life but preparing for them is something we can control. Because you can organise resilience with things like good water management. Look at the 100 Resilient Cities initiative. Or take Mexico City, Singapore and New Orleans, who are working on resilience, each in their own way, but with one common denominator: urban resilience. That resilience will be needed if cities are to cope with the problems facing them now and in the future. ‘Resilience’, says Michael Berkowitz (the President of the global network of 100 Resilient Cities), ‘is not a choice or a necessity; it’s more a question of potential.’ Berkowitz explains that cities see Deltares as a research institute rather than a commercial company: ‘Obviously, Deltares doesn’t work for nothing but the not-for-profit branding is incredibly powerful in our network of cities: the unbiased position of Deltares means that cities value and trust the organisation.’
Deltares looks through five lenses at resilient cities
Deltares is a global leader in the field of water, soil and infrastructure. That knowledge is crucial for urban design, planning and management. As a research institute, we are always on the lookout for new solutions and we develop software that is used worldwide. We measure, monitor, analyse and model urban issues in order to work with our urban partners on integrated solutions for resilient and liveable cities. Discussions often focus on ‘too much, too little, too dirty, too compartmentalised and not for everyone’. That is why we look through five lenses at resilient cities: flood risk management, drought, water quality, integrated design and inclusiveness. How do our knowledge, tools and methods contribute to resilient cities when you look through these lenses? We give five examples below.
Involving local people
Urban water quality has been mapped out by the local people in Amsterdam for the first time. A fine example of citizen science provided more data about more locations in a short period of time. More than a thousand measurements were made during the Clean Water Experiment, with Deltares as one of the initiators. But the biggest gain was that the people of Amsterdam who took part felt more involved with the quality of the water in the city and started to change their conduct accordingly. The project proved that getting locals involved in measuring water quality does more than just improve the models. An identical project has now begun in the city of Almere (Netherlands).
A detailed model shows where investment pays off
Colombo (Sri Lanka) was partly flooded in 2016: 186,000 people were affected and there were three fatal casualties. The Sri Lankan government teamed up with Deltares to look at how to reduce the risks associated with flooding in the future. The flood risks for the Kelani River were mapped out first and a detailed hydrodynamic model was then set up. Together with an economic analysis of the most important infrastructure, a strategy has been developed to prevent or limit future risks.
Using scenarios to engage in dialogue
The San Francisco Bay area faces numerous geographical challenges. With seven million inhabitants, the area is affected by excesses and shortages of water, there is a serious housing shortage and people live with the constant threat of an earthquake. It is clear what is needed: a strategy to move the San Francisco Bay area forward. Business as usual is not a solution and collaboration from residents, businesses and local authorities is essential. Working with other Dutch organisations, Deltares developed a range of future scenarios that can be used by the city to develop the dialogue between the various parties.
The city is growing – the water supplies are shrinking
Cape Town in South Africa has a growing economy and population but the water supplies are shrinking. Periods of drought are increasingly frequent and they will get longer and longer, resulting in economic stagnation, emigration and possible social unrest. Economising on water use is important but a structural solution will require more than just changes in behaviour. We are working with local partners to learn more about the water system and establish a clear picture of the risks. We are collaborating with the City of Cape Town and a consortium of Dutch and local partners on Liveable Urban Waterways. The aim is to re-establish the links between Cape Town’s twenty-one rivers and the city’s groundwater on the one hand and the people’s lives and nature in the city on the other, and therefore to improve quality of life and water security in the city.
Calculation model delivers inclusive recommendations for flood policy
An average of 19,000 people die each year as a result of floods and the damage runs into billions. But the calculations made to prevent damage penalise the poorest sections of the population. Their homes and belongings are less expensive and that often applies to their living environment as well. Deltares has developed a calculation model that includes the impact of flooding on the rich and the poor. It produces more inclusive recommendations for water security policies and interventions that protect not only the wealthy but also poor and socially vulnerable groups.
Cities seek practical solutions
These are just a few illustrations of how the knowledge of water and soil systems at Deltares contributes to making cities more resilient. Always in a customised way and in collaboration with those same cities, independently and in line with our dare-to-share principles.
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Protecting Colombo against future floods
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