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The Water-Sustainable City

Science, Policy and Practice

David L. Feldman

Cities place enormous pressures on freshwater quality and availability because they are often located some distance from the water sources needed by their populations. This fact compels planners to build infrastructure to divert water from increasingly distant outlying rural areas, thus disrupting their social fabric and environment. In addition, increasing urbanization due to population growth, economic change, and sprawl places huge burdens upon the institutions, as well as the infrastructure, that deliver, protect, and treat urban water. This book assesses the challenges facing the world’s cities in providing reliable, safe, and plentiful supplies through infrastructural, economic, legal, and political strategies.
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Chapter 3: Roles for civil engineering, law and institutions in urban water management

David L. Feldman


This chapter considers the “water anatomy” of cities. We discuss how, like living creatures with circulatory systems, every city has developed its own unique “plumbing” system with water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure and elaborate systems of law and regulatory institutions to govern and manage these systems. We examine both anatomy and physiology by focusing on some urban examples that typify the range of both conventional and novel approaches to urban water management in our time. Our objective is to trace various ways in which cities seek to attain water resiliency. The principal lessons drawn come directly from our PIRE project and our investigations into measures adopted by Melbourne, Australia. However, we also examine two “megacities’ that have faced considerable challenges in managing their anatomy and physiology: Mexico City and Tokyo. We also consider how well they’ve achieved resilience – a top-down approach to management, versus adaptiveness, which emanates from the bottom up.

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