Cross-boundary Evolution of Urban Planning and Urban Drainage Towards the Water Sensitive “Sponge City”

  • Meiyue Zhou
  • Stephan Köster
  • Jian’e Zuo
  • Wu Che
  • Xianping Wang
Part of the Future City book series (FUCI, volume 12)


To counter its high urban pluvial flood vulnerability, China has been promoting Sponge City Development, a critical urban transition that requires cross-boundary evolution, particularly among the urban planning and urban drainage sectors. This article analyzes the relevant causes of high urban pluvial flood vulnerabilities in Chinese cities and the enormous gaps between the status quo and the ambitious targets. To bridge the gaps, a three-tier solution system is proposed and is supported by a broad range of approaches, know-how, techniques, examples, concepts, and policies. Firstly, water-sensitive urban planning can minimize macroscale damage on the local hydrological cycle. For example, it is illustrated here how cities can preserve critical ecological infrastructure effectively while developing resiliently, compactly, and habitably, for example, through spatial development criteria, urban growth boundaries and multifunctional urban poly-centers. Furthermore, implementations of low-impact development (LID) facilities can ameliorate local hydrology and reduce runoff pollution. This research thoroughly analyzes the relevant risks and challenges while customizing solutions, e.g., LID planning, based on improved hydrology – hydraulic and water quality simulations, management train, and separated treatment. Lastly, urban sewer system can be improved cost-efficiently via improving top-level designs and also via fully releasing, utilizing, and activating the existing sewer system’s drainage and detention potential. Although the lessons and recommendations reviewed here are customized for Chinese cities, they can also be a reference for other fast-developing cities endangered by urban pluvial flooding.



We highly appreciate the support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We thank our colleagues, Ms. Jing GAN from Tongji University, Ms. Mingli XIE from Jiaxing Planning & Design Research Institute, Mr. Xiang Zhou from HKL Architects, and further research partners from Beijing, Jiaxing, Wuxi, Shanghai, and Shenzhen for sharing insights and expertise that greatly assisted this review, although they may not agree with all the interpretations of this paper. We also thank Mr. Kelly Stanley for assistance with proofreading that greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meiyue Zhou
    • 1
  • Stephan Köster
    • 2
  • Jian’e Zuo
    • 3
  • Wu Che
    • 4
  • Xianping Wang
    • 5
  1. 1.Project Engineer Pabsch & PartnerHildesheimGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Sanitary Engineering and Waste ManagementLeibniz University HannoverHanoverGermany
  3. 3.School of EnvironmentTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.School of Environment and Energy EngineeringBeijing University of Civil Engineering and ArchitectureBeijingChina
  5. 5.Jiaxing Planning & Design Research Institute Co., LTDJiaxingChina

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