Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Articulating the new urban water paradigm

Franco-Torres, Manuel; Rogers, Briony C.; Harder, Robin


Urban water systems in industrialized countries have underpinned unprecedented improvements in urban living standards through effective drinking water supply, sanitation and drainage. However, conventional urban water systems are increasingly regarded as too rigid and not sufficiently resilient to confront growing social, technological and environmental complexity and uncertainty, manifested, for example, in the maladaptation to climate change, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and degrading urban livability. In response, a new urban water paradigm has emerged in the last two decades within the context of a broader societal change that promotes a more organic worldview over the classical mechanistic and technocratic understanding of reality. This article develops and applies an analytical framework to coherently describe the new paradigm and contrast it with the old urban water paradigm. The framework includes a philosophical foundation and set of methodological principles that shape the new paradigm's approach to governance, management, and infrastructure.


Paradigm shift; new water paradigm; integrated urban water management; sustainable urban water management; water sensitive urban design; complexity

Published in

Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
2021, Volume: 51, number: 23, pages: 2777-2823

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
    SDG11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)