Water Resources Management

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 2177–2197 | Cite as

City Blueprints: 24 Indicators to Assess the Sustainability of the Urban Water Cycle

  • Cornelis J. van LeeuwenEmail author
  • Jos Frijns
  • Annemarie van Wezel
  • Frans H. M. van de Ven


Climate change, population growth and increased consumption, coupled with urbanization, are all placing increased pressure on water management. This global challenge can often best be addressed at the local level, e.g. in cities by optimizing the role of civil society. Although there are approaches for assessing the sustainability of countries and cities, there is no dedicated framework for the assessment of the sustainability of urban water management. We have therefore compiled a comprehensive list of indicators (the city blueprint) for this. The city blueprint is proposed as a first step towards gaining a better understanding and addressing the challenges of integrated urban water management (IUWM). City blueprints will enable the IUWM of cities to be compared, and stimulate the exchange of success stories (good practices) between cities to address the enormous IUWM challenges which lie ahead. The city blueprint provides a quick scan and baseline assessment. It comprises elements from a variety of methodologies, such as water footprint, urban metabolism and ecosystem services. The indicators have been subdivided into eight broad categories, i.e. (1) water security following the water footprint approach developed by Hoekstra and Chapagain (2007), (2) water quality, which includes surface water and groundwater, (3) drinking water, (4) sanitation, (5) infrastructure, (6) climate robustness, (7) biodiversity and attractiveness and (8) governance. Experience using city blueprints for the cities of Rotterdam, Maastricht and Venlo (in the Netherlands) have been included as practical examples. It was concluded that simplicity (ease of calculation and data availability), transparency and ease of communication makes the blueprint a valuable tool for policy makers, decision makers and resource managers as a first step in the process of understanding, envisioning, developing and implementing measures to transform the water management of cities. The best results are obtained when all the stakeholders are involved and connected right from the start.


Sustainability Water management Climate change Urban metabolism Water footprint City blueprint 



This research was conducted on behalf of Waternet Amsterdam and the KWR Water Cycle Research Institute. The authors were asked to develop a quick scan to assess the sustainability of the urban water cycle in all its aspects. This was easier said than done. Despite all the research efforts and international discussions, sustainable water cycles still mean different things to different people. We would like to thank Wim van Vierssen, Jos Boere, Gertjan Medema, Maarten Nederlof, Theo van den Hoven, Gerard van de Berg, Gertjan Zwolsman, Jan Hofman, Leo Puijker, Merijn Schriks and Andrew Segrave (KWR Watercycle Research Institute). A particular word of thanks also goes to Geurt van de Kerk and Arthur Manuel (Sustainable Society Foundation, the Netherlands) for providing thought-provoking suggestions and material. Last but not least, the two anonymous reviewers are also acknowledged for their valuable comments, references and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cornelis J. van Leeuwen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jos Frijns
    • 1
  • Annemarie van Wezel
    • 1
  • Frans H. M. van de Ven
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.KWR Watercycle Research InstituteNieuwegeinthe Netherlands
  2. 2.DeltaresUtrechtthe Netherlands
  3. 3.TU Delft, Faculty of Civil EngineeringDelftthe Netherlands

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