Field: Dissemination of information, Water cycle management
Global Technical function: Collecting, Composting, Managing
Technical Function Unit: Modelling, Strategic planning
Geographic Area: Netherlands


The Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow Cities Health (SWITCH) is a project carried out between 2006 and 2011 to explore cities’needs for managing water in a greener way within the urban environment. To this end, a consortium of 35 partners from 15 countries analysed the key sustainability challenges in urban water management. The project was coordinated by the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education; Core group Pollution Prevention and Resource Recovery (Netherlands), and was funded under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

The project idea came up from a worldwide analysis of urban water cycle management. The management of the water cycle focused on centralised appliances, and treatment was applied on an end-of-pipe basis. In addition, a strategy looked for getting water and wastes quickly out of the cities.

Moving forward a sustainable water cycle achievement is not straightforward. To do so, the project firstly provided platforms where stakeholders from a range of institutions (municipalities, service providers, universities, and in some cases NGOs and user groups) were brainstorming with the objective of improving water management. Secondly, a selection of ideas coming from these “learning alliance platforms” was tested through research actions. Finally, the project showed to be very useful for implementing a strategic planning process where the urban water cycle can be viewed in an integrated way and new strategic directions can be developed.

The project covered six different research areas related to Integrated Urban Water Management: (i) planning for the future, (ii) engaging stakeholders, (iii) water supply, (iv) stormwater (v) wastewater and (vi) decision support tools. Each of them faced several issues like strategic approaches and indicators, integration economy, social inclusion, governance research, water security through reuse, water quality from natural purifying systems or treatment processes for pharmaceuticals. Among the huge amount of results, the software tools developed for water management, resources modelling and Decission Suport are worthy of remark.

Additionally, demonstration activities were implemented in all the studied cities. This was accomplished by translating the research results to a tangible scale and testing the research assumptions regarding performance, costs, community acceptance and other factors.
Green and Brown Roofs (roofs partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium) for reducing stormwater runoff were applied in Birmimghan (United Kingdom), rainwater collecting for greenhouses and agriculture was tested in Beijing (China) and Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and composting tannery solid wastes was applied in Bogotá. Concerning recycling wastewater and nutrients, some demonstration activities were applied in Lima (Perú), Accra (Ghana), Tel Aviv (Israel), Chengdu (China) and Lodz (Poland). Other demonstration activities encompassed Water Demand Management (Zaragoza-Spain and Alexandria-Egypt), Water Sensitive Urban Design (Belo Horizonte, Lodz) and Innovative Partnerships (Alexandria-Egypt).

As the project is completed, material is available to perform the dissemination of information with regard to its outputs .  So, a level 9 in the TRL scale can be assigned. Furthermore,
a training toolkit was developed, together with the city learning alliances, to maximise the utility and impact of the proposed approach. In the near future the consortium would like to encourage the dissemination of results in order to attract new cities for applying the developed approach. In addition, a more solid knowledge on the long-term implementation of the applied measures would be welcome.