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Smart cities

Climate change adaptation

Water management

Water for smart liveable cities

Water is key to creating smart cities that are both liveable and sustainable. Proper water management can make a difference for cities that are healthier to live in, resilient towards climate change and more sustainable overall. Digitalisation connects water management to the smart city agenda and increases transparency, innovation and liveability.

Today, more than half of the world’s population live in cities. The United Nations estimate that by 2050, this will increase to 70 percent. Water is  fundamental for both life – including modern, urban life – and economic growth across sectors. According to World Economic Forum’s Global Risk  Report 2020, water-related issues such as extremeweather, natural disasters, drought, and  ailure to adapt to climate change are among
the greatest global risks to the well-being and prosperity of mankind.

Ensuring basic delivery of services for people and production, while at the same time protecting the surrounding water resources is a key task for  urban water managers. This must go hand-in-hand with planning and managing well-functioning cities that are resilient, healthy and attractive places to live.

Urban water managers all over the world share these challenges. In Copenhagen – the host city of the International Water Association’s (IWA) World Water Congress & Exhibition in 2021 – and other Danish cities, water managers are constantly working towards creating better cities, and they
are committed to sharing experiences with other cities worldwide. Water governance, technology development and daily operations in Denmark is
based on a high level of trust, engagement and enforcement of regulations which ensure public legitimacy. Over the past 50 years, a professional effort has been made to streamline and further develop the water sector to provide environmental benefits, effectiveness and efficiency and to support sustainability efforts. And in recent years, to also contribute to an overall green transformation of society in a manner which promotes economic growth and employment.

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This article is part of our publication ‘Water for smart liveable cities’

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Megatrends shaping the water sector

By the onset of the 2020s, three new agenda-setting megatrends are shaping the international water sector as well as the Danish:

  • A call for sustainability is seen all over the world. Many of the 17 UN Sustainable  Development Goals (SDGs) directly or indirectly depend on finding sustainable solutions for water, and there is even a dedicated goal for clean water and sanitation. The SDGs are crucial to the overall
    vision of Water for Smart Liveable Cities, along with a number of key elements that are illustrated below and further discussed in the subsequent chapters of this white paper.
  •  A strive for liveability through use of multifunctional blue-green infrastructure, which offers many benefits to urban society, including  improved local climate resilience through reduced combined sewer overflow and flooding, improved urban amenities, and decreased  environmental life cycle impacts of water infrastructure. This strive is embedded in IWA’s Principles for Water-Wise Cities.
  • Digitalisation, which is currently transforming water systems from passive, single-purpose infrastructure elements into active and adaptive units that can respond differently according to situation and be planned, designed and operated in an integrated manner. This connects the
    water sector to the broader smart cities agenda, which strives at increasing citizen involvement, and potentially contributes to making the water sector more efficient, more innovative and more sustainable.

These megatrends are also reflected in the European Union’s ‘Green Deal’, which aims to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050 and sets ambitious targets for zero pollution, a cleaner environment and  improved biodiversity. This is mirrored by the Danish Government’s green transition policy which aims to reduce the country’s total CO2 emissions by 70 percent by  2030, and sets a specific target for the Danish water sector to become energy
and climate neutral by 2030.

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